Lapu CSWO head admits COVID-19 infection, appeals for understanding
CEBU CITY, Philippines — Annabeth Cuizon, the acting head of the City Social Welfare Office (CSWO) in Lapu-Lapu City, went out on social media this morning, April 25, 2020, to admit that she was among the City Hall employees who tested positive for the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).
Cuizon said she was forced to come out into the open to appeal for understanding and to defend other COVID-19 victims like her against discrimination.
Cuizon is also the wife of Director Ahmed Cuizon of the Land Transportation Franchising Regulatory Board in Region 3 (LTRFRB-3).
A teary-eyed Cuizon said that even some of her co-workers had expressed fear that close contact with her would also get them infected. Because of her personal experience, she now worries of what will become of her after she is discharged from the hospital.
“Ang akong hangyo nga dili lang unta mi i-discriminate. (I am appealing that you do not discriminate us) We need your respect. We need your understanding. We need your compassion,” Cuizon said in an 11-minute video which she posted on her Facebook page this morning.
To protect COVID-19 patients, Cuizon is also asking members of the Lapu-Lapu City Council and their counterparts coming from other Cebu localities to pass legislation that will ensure their protection against all forms of discrimination.
“Ang mindset sa mga taw should be corrected. I am calling on our city legislators, I am calling on all of you there mga city officials on behalf of us, on behalf of all COVID-19 positive, can we do a legislation, ordinance perhaps nga dili mi i discriminate. Nga pohon ug mo gawas mi ug maayo ang among lawas dili mi lainon sa mga taw ug tan aw kay basin ug dili na mi pasudlon sa opisina or sa barangay,” she said.
(There is a need to correct the mindset of the people. I am calling on city legislators, I am calling on all city officials on behalf of all COVID-19 patients, can we pass a legislation, an ordinance perhaps that will protect us from discrimination? So that when the time comes that we will already be discharged from the hospital, we will still be able to report for work and visit our assigned barangays.)
Cuizon, who used to work as chief of staff for Cebu Councilor Margot Osmeña and transferred to the Lapu-Lapu City Hall after Mayor Junard Chan was elected to office in May 2019, said that COVID-19 patients should not be faulted for acquiring the disease.
In her FB live, Cuizon said she might have gotten the virus during one of their relief distributions in Lapu-Lapu City. As acting head of CSWO, she would lead relief operations to send food aid to families, who were affected by the implementation of the enhanced community quarantine.
Her sickness started with back pains that she did not even mind at first because she was asymptomatic. She thought that her back pains resulted from late night baths that she would do before she would enter her home from work.
Cuizon said she was admitted at the ARC Hospital after she tested positive for COVID-19 and was now on her 10th day of admission.
After she was diagnosed with the virus, social workers under her office were also made to undergo testing and were lucky to remain COVID-19 free.
“Malipay unta ko nga hapit na ang 14 days nga mogawas na ko pero lain ang naa ron sa akong hunahuna. Murag maguol ko nga mogawas. Unsa na lang kaha ang tan-aw sa mga taw nako inig gawas nako sa ospital? Will they embrace me? Dili ba kaha ko i-discriminate?
(While I am glad that I will already be completing the 14-day quarantine period, I can’t help but also feel worried. I feel fear that I will soon be discharged. I worry about how others will treat me after my discharge from the hospital. Will they embrace me? Will they not discriminate me?)
While she remains at the hospital, Cuizon said that she had been getting reports on the unfair treatment that some CSWO employees have been getting even from law enforcers who would now refuse to provide them security during their barangay visits.
A CSWO employee told her that she was no longer allowed to use of the service vehicle of the barangay where she was assigned at because her boss was a COVID-19 patient.
“Karon pagtawag sa social worker nako naghilak,” Cuizon said.
(The social worker was crying when she called me.)
“Ang mga taw dili kasabot. Malooy ko sa akong mga staff tungod kay ang ilang head na positive,” she added.
(People do not seem to understand my situation. I pity my staff because they also suffer discrimination simply because their office head is COVID-19 positive.)
Cuizon said it was sad to note that some of her office personnel were being discriminated upon even by some law enforcers.
“This morning, when supplies were delivered, even the policemen assigned to us said ayaw ug duol kay mga positve na sila. Mga COVID na sila. Ingon ana na lang gyud diay ta ka ubos ug pang huna-huna. Kalooy sa mga positive. Kami nag antos sa among sakit,” said a very emotional Cuizon.
(This morning, when supplies were delivered, even the policemen assigned to us said do not go near them because they are positive. They are COVID cases. Is this how low our mindset is. I pity those who are positive cases. We are the ones suffering from the disease.)
Before she ended her live video, Cuzion said that she never chose to be infected by the deadly virus.
Like the many other COVID-19 patients, Cuizon said that she was also prepared to comply with government regulations like the need to maintain social distancing, constant hand washing, and the need to always wear face masks to prevent the spread of the infection.
“We are willing to cooperate man ug unsay ipabuhat nila namo ug mogawas na mi pananglitan. But I just hope dili pud mi nila i-discriminate,” she said./dbs
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