Since the Philippines received its first COVID-19 case on January 30, the disease remains a serious threat not only to those who have been infected but to the people they have come in close contact with. These people are known as Persons Under Investigation (PUI) and Persons Under Monitoring (PUM).
According to the Department of Health’s Decision Tool for Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Assessment dated February 26, 2020, PUI have signs and symptoms of COVID-19, a history of travel in the past 14 days to areas with issued travel restrictions, and a history of exposure. PUI are admitted to hospitals.
PUM, like the two subjects of this story, are those with no signs and symptoms, but have traveled in areas with issued travel restrictions, and have a history of exposure. As a protocol, they are placed under monitored self-quarantine for 14 days. (Read: COVID-19 UPDATE: WHO releases new classifications for coronavirus cases)
Danny, 57, Government Employee
The day Danny (not his real name) turned 57, he was on the home stretch of a 14-day quarantine, having been exposed to people who eventually showed symptoms of COVID-19 or tested positive for the highly contagious disease. These people were members of his family.
His daughter and her husband were the first to show telltale signs: a cold and fever. A few days after, his younger daughter and his wife—both of whom were staying in the couple’s house—also developed a fever. (Read: UP Researchers Develop COVID-19 Symptoms Tracker)
And when Danny’s younger daughter moved back to his house where he, his son, and his son’s girlfriend were staying, the latter also developed a fever and cough, and has soon lost her sense of taste and smell.
A swab test confirmed she was positive for COVID-19. Municipality personnel transferred into a COVID-19 isolation facility in their city.
Though both his daughters’ COVID-19 tests turned out negative, Danny and his son were considered PUM. “Wala po akong sintomas,” says Danny. He acknowledged he could be asymptomatic, but he doesn’t entertain the thought. “Hindi ko inisip ‘yon,” he says. (Read: Asymptomatic Patients Carry Same Amount of Virus as Symptomatic Individuals, Study Claims)
As a government employee, one of the first things that Danny did was advise his employer. Despite his assurance that he felt fine and followed the protocols of wearing a face mask, practicing social distancing, and frequently washing his hands, his boss had some of Danny’s closest co-workers go on quarantine.
Danny, who is serving his quarantine at home, has received regular aid from his municipality. He is also monitored daily by his employer and a doctor. To stay healthy, he drinks boiled ginger mixed with calamansi thrice a day and takes two tablets of vitamin C every day. (Read: 4 Key Facts to Remember When Buying Health Supplements) He also exercises—“talon-talon, suntok-suntok sa hangin, jogging in place, push-ups”—and thinks positive. “Isipin natin na tayo ay gumaling para makapagtrabaho at makasilbi sa pamilya,” he says.
For Danny, the toughest part about quarantine is being away from family. His wife (who also has no symptoms), their two daughters, his son-in-law, and his three grandchildren (two boys and a girl) are in his daughter and son-in-law’s house; he and his son are at home.
To cope, they text and call each other throughout the day. “Panay nga ang kantyaw ng mga anak ko kung kailan ako magluluto ng spaghetti,” he says on the evening of his birthday. “Hinahanap-hanap nila ang luto ko.” (Read: 3 Easy Recipes for Special Occasions While in Quarantine)
“Grabe,” he sighs of the situation. “Pero malalampasan din namin ito.”
True enough, his son’s girlfriend had gotten better and was dropped off at their place on the morning of Danny’s birthday. Danny’s own quarantine ends on the 12th and if all goes well, he can resume work on the 17th. “Mag-ingat lagi,” he says when asked what he would tell us during this pandemic. “Huwag lumabas ng bahay kung hindi importante. Mag-social distancing. At maging alert lagi.”
Simon, 31, Staffing Specialist
Simon became a PUM when his company’s human resources department told him he was among the passengers in a shuttle taken by a person positive for COVID-19. The 31-year-old staffing specialist was exposed for more than 15 minutes in an enclosed space with the infected person. (Read: 3 Secrets to Protect Yourself From Viruses In Crowded Places)
Though he had no symptoms, Simon alerted his local government unit’s (LGU) Barangay Health Emergency Response Team (BHERT) and placed himself under 14-day quarantine monitoring. “The monitoring was fairly easy since you just had to give the officer an AM/PM update of your body temperature,” he says.
Thereafter, he spent the next two weeks relaxing and keeping busy. “Since I had tons of free time, I mostly played video games, took a couple of free online courses to upskill myself, and tried being healthy as much as possible by eating healthy food, drinking vitamins and supplements, and exercising,” he says. (Read: How do you eat healthy while in quarantine? We asked a nutritionist-dietician!)
Simon, who remains symptom-free as of this interview, has not taken a swab or rapid test to confirm if he has the disease. His LGU hasn’t advised him to take one either, and he is not inclined “to spend around P12,000 on a private test,” he says. “If it’s through the LGU it’s free, but they have the say if I should take one or not.”
“If you’re a PUM, make sure you’re healthy and be honest about reporting yourself to your LGU. Get all the important phone numbers from your LGU’s Facebook page, especially BHERT, because they are the ones who will contact you regarding your quarantine monitoring,” he advises. (Read: ‘Strict social distancing’ shall be observed during Mass – CBCP)
“DO NOT PANIC. Observe yourself if you’re showing or feeling any symptoms. If you feel the need to isolate yourself from your family in your home, then do so.