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How Mayor Francis Zamora And His Wife Keri's Teamwork Is Helping Their City Amidst COVID-19

In good times and in bad times, San Juan City's political dream team is couple goals in more ways than one

Husbands and wives-to-be take a vow at the altar, committing themselves to each for life, in good and bad times, in sickness and in health. 


But did San Juan City mayor Francis Zamora and his wife of 18 years, Keri, think that they would literally be fighting a plague together for the sake of their children, their friends, their neighbors, their city, and the country itself? Probably not!



These are stressful times we live in today. That much they'll agree with. And as San Juan's power couple that city residents look up to for hope and help when things are at their direst, they've stepped up to the plate by initiating and sustaining COVID-19 relief efforts.


In a conversation with Keri, we asked her to tell us about their city's current situation, how she has worked closely with Francis, what they've done so far to help, and what their game plan is for the (hopefully) near future when the crisis has come to pass.


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As of this writing, there are 57 confirmed cases in San Juan City, 102 persons under investigation (PUI), and 222 persons under monitoring (PUM). Like other major hospitals in Metro Manila, San Juan Medical Center is also running at full capacity. 


Assessing the COVID-19 crisis, Keri notes that it has certainly grown from a purely medical crisis and an economic struggle for the country. She shares that Filipinos, ordinary citizens, have also carried the burden of the pandemic's social consequences. Different groups of people—from hospital frontliners and patients, to public servants and ordinary citizens—have posed different sets of challenges for Keri and her husband; and each set of needs has demanded unique solutions to meet them, requiring them to get creative with the answers to the question on everyone's minds: What do we do now? 


So far, Mayor Francis, in partnership with different public and private institutions, has addressed that question with the following: 


1. Installation of strict checkpoints in all entries and exits of the city 

2. Implementation of city ordinances that set a curfew and banned hoarding 

3. Disseminating regular updates on COVID-19 cases and information on precautionary measures

4. Creation of a COVID-19 task force and command center

5. Daily disinfections of different areas around the city

6. Free bicycle use for medical front liners, especially those working at San Juan Medical City, as well as free bus rides for them that have special routes set by the city

7. Strict implementation of Inter-agency Task Force guidelines on the suspension of public transportation, social distancing for medical front liners taking public transport, and the closure of public spaces 

8.  Provision of vitamin C and other vitamins to all medical front liners

9. A zero-billing policy on San Juaneños admitted at the San Juan Medical Center

10. Publication of barangay and city emergency contact information

11. Advance release of salaries of JOs****

12. An additional city ordinance extending payment deadlines of business and real property taxes

13. Establishing the 42-bed isolation rooms for COVID-19 patients at San Juan Medical and the opening of another 100-bed COVID-19 overflow quarantine facility at the San Juan Science High School

14. Initial distribution of 50,000 family food packs with alcohol and masks in San Juan City

15. Free food and drinks provided to front liners prepared by local government units that includes lunch, merienda, and dinner


"San Juan has a household population of a little over 30,000 and a total population of only 122,000. The city government will distribute more to make sure those who need them the most get them and are being prioritized during the enhanced community quarantine," Keri adds. 



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Keri shares more San Juan City updates and her thoughts below: 


Is there a volunteer recruitment program ongoing? 

"We don’t do any recruitment because the volunteers present themselves. Then, we categorize them according to their skill level."


How do you plan to sustain your COVID-19-related programs in the near future with limited supplies, manpower issues, and challenges in logistics? 

"By ensuring that we have adequate supplies to cover both medical and social aspects. The local government is using its quick response and calamity funds, as well as getting the support of the private sector." 


How are you keeping you and your family safe considering that you remain to be out and about?

"Francis takes extra precaution when he is out—no shaking of hands, wears his mask, takes his vitamins, and he eats well and exercises. The kids and I stay home. I try my best to help Francis by keeping in touch with the medical director of San Juan Medical Center and trying to get the medical supplies he needs, reaching out to friends who would like to help. I consolidate all their donations such as food, medical supplies, water, and more, coordinate with the team in charge, and send them to the city hall. I also make sure to share all announcements Francis makes on social media."



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What has this crisis taught your husband about leadership, compassion, and sacrifice?

"There are some things that are beyond our control. In times of crisis, everyone in their own little way can contribute in solving it. As a leader, you have to be on top of the situation, a frontliner. Because when people see you on the frontline, it encourages them, it gives them confidence. In spite of the fact that there is a high possibility of being infected, you have to be out there to lead your city." 


What words of encouragement and comfort would he like to share with your city's residents?

"To the people of San Juan, your local government is doing its very best to win the battle vs. COVID-19 in both the medical and social fronts. Trust that your mayor is hands-on daily in ensuring that all important aspects such as healthcare, social services, peace and order, and human protection are given proper attention and extreme importance."



Photos from @kerizamora