False positives

False positives


WHEN being tested for COVID-19 before a trip, even a domestic one to a resort, nothing can be worse than getting a “false positive.” You may be virus-free, but the test says you’re not. And the following day, another test may show a negative result. And yet, the prepaid vacation to the beach is scrapped and hard to untangle when you are required to go on a self-imposed quarantine because of the first test.

The reproduction rate of the virus, which is tracked daily, shows the number of positive cases for the day that have been added to the outstanding level since the start of tracking the numbers in March of 2020. The rise and fall of this daily number drive the pandemic alert levels (formerly designated as Q statuses) for specific areas. Another tracked statistic is the “positivity” rate that measures the number of positives over those being tested. How many of these positives are false?

This is not to start a medical debate or question the numbers, only a reminder that testing protocols are not as infallible as they seem. Always, the watchword is — better to be safe than sorry.

False positives can go undetected for a long time. In life too, we encounter them.

In virtual meetings, it is hard to determine support for a project, especially one that entails unexpectedly high costs that need to be shared by the participants. The search for sponsors is simply a way of shifting the funding problem. Eventually, the project drifts into a simple case study — let’s give it some more thought. The positive support gradually fades, along with the project. (We’re still looking for funding.)

Businesses like restaurants, travel agencies, hotels, office buildings, and malls that are directly affected by restricted mobility and limitations on seating capacity have had their false positives. Announcements of an easing of restrictions can quickly be rescinded even as preparations for regular service are getting readied.

Politicians already declaring as candidates for the top posts may seem to have positive traits, especially for the “Anybody-But-D” (ABD) crowd. They seem fiery, even exchanging insults and ridicule with the Chief Insulting Officer (CIO). But a review of their not-too-distant pronouncements show collaboration and support. Social media can dig up declarations of loyalty to the now-spurned leader. Their positives turn out to be false.

There are also present supporters of this administration who used to attack the top for human rights violations, and now serve as apologists and defenders of their former target. Let’s just call them hypocrites. The word is from the Greek “hypokrites” for actor or stage player.

All politicians staunchly declare that they want to discuss the issues and not engage in personal attacks. (Let’s take a positive perspective on what the country needs, and not engage in name-calling.) Our politics tend to be all personal. Scandals and anomalies are at the top of the narrative themes. So, candidates are defined by who they are against more than what they are for. The positive appeal for an exchange of ideas is simply false.

True negatives are easier to deal with.

A negative list is short. A list of foods to avoid in a diet to achieve good health or to lose weight or contraband items you are not supposed to bring in to a country, like illegal drugs, bullets, or fresh fruits.

It is not surprising that the best approach to politics is going negative. Opposition research tries to surface weaknesses and vulnerabilities of critics and opponents. This is the only option of one whose past actions are not defensible.

Squid tactics are employed by attacking the attacker or simply changing the topic to alert levels and the now no-longer-necessary facial shields. Squids employ this blurring tactic of releasing inky liquid to hide and make their getaway.

Economic recovery and the coming elections are tied together. The prospect of a new beginning for the country is hopefully a true positive.

Tony Samson is chairman and CEO of TOUCH xda


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