When the government imposed a series of lockdowns in Metro Manila and its neighboring provinces, Laguna was among the areas placed under close monitoring because of the threat of COVID-19.
There was a time when the number of coronavirus cases multiplied rapidly after workers were allowed to go back to work in the industrial zones situated in this province. Caught in the eye of the storm, the Cabuyao City local government quickly responded to the situation. It organized a team of contact tracers to be able to identify and locate the virus-infected individuals, and immediately put them in a quarantine facility and provide medical treatment.
Leading the contact tracers is 37-year-old Rodolfo ‘Rudy’ Derez, head of the City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office for the past six years. He is probably the busiest man at city hall right now.
Derez rides a Yamaha NMax daily to work, although he’s been assigned two government vehicles. And since he mostly finds himself responding to emergency calls with the NMax, he calls his black stallion ‘24/7.’
He says that supervising 33 contact tracers from the quick-response teams of 18 barangays is not an easy task. He is answerable to the local unit of the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases if they don’t perform their duties at the required standard. “Kailangan ng maayos na koordinasyon sa ibang concerned agencies para walang bulilyaso at mahanap naming ang mga COVID-infected persons,” he stressed.
Not only that, Derez takes a hands-on approach in training new recruits to make sure only those qualified will be able to join the contact-tracing team: “Importante ang kanilang dedikasyon sa trabaho bilang empleyado ng lokal na pamahalaan.”
Everyone on the team, he says, are college graduates, and they receive monthly pay as casual employees of the city government. In order to get hired, they need to undergo seminars and training, and must pass the exam on this particular specialized field. The applicants must be good at investigative work and psychological approaches in locating the possible virus carriers.
The contact tracers are provided with personal protective equipment (PPE) and sanitizers. Derez says his PPE and sanitizing gear are always packed in the top box of his NMax.
Having a wife and a son, Derez acknowledges that he’s at risk whenever he’s on duty. He has had to undergo swab tests several times, but luckily, the results have always been negative. “Ubos na ang takot [ko]. Matira-matibay ang pananaw ko,” he says.
Contact tracing is a risky job, but a very fulfilling one. He is looking forward to training more riders for this kind of mission and, hopefully, they will be able to get on board.
NOTE: This article first appeared on TopBikes.ph. Minor edits have been made.