A moral test for Thanksgiving......
This came in the email at 5:48 PM yesterday

What's all the fuss? To get tested or not.

Dear Folks,

Day before Thanksgiving and it sure is quiet around here.  And will be tomorrow, too.  Just me and Mom and we're gonna have a fine time.  Electronic greetings to others as we stay safe.

Meanwhile, I have heard some more discussion about coronavirus testing.  Seems to be a popular topic, particularly after a HUGE spike in cases, major increase in % positivity, and hospitals getting busy again.  And, oh, yeah, the highest number of Americans in months died from CV yesterday:  > 2,000.

So, what's the deal on testing?

Well, to start with, I think people misunderstand the purpose of the CV test.  What it is is a tool to monitor your health status.  Just like a blood pressure test that you get every time you go to the doctor's office, a good reading is NOT a guarantee for life that you will not have that affliction.  (Not covid, not hypertension).

So, the purpose is to help you monitor your health status and please pay attention here... to make inferences about your health habits. Are you washing your hands, are you staying away from risky exposures, are you wearing your colorful mask?  The test is a way to check and see if your health habits are successfully keeping you away from this bad virus.  Repeated tests help you assess your health habits over time.

But you could assess the success of your health habits without the test, right?  Just count the number of times you wash your hands each day?  Well, yes and no.  Washing your hands is great and kind of nice if you get the right soap, but since as many as 50% of the people who are INFECTED with the coronavirus do not have ANY symptoms, the self-assessment falls short of a scientific assessment.

That means you need to get the (swab) test.  Yeah, sorry.

What will the swab test tell you?  If the result is positive, you will know with considerable accuracy that you have the virus, are contagious, and should take action.  These tests are VERY good at finding "positives".  

If the result is negative, what that means is that you probably do not have the virus, you are not likely to be contagious and you SHOULD STILL TAKE PRECAUTIONS.

You might notice that word "probably" in there.  That means.... well, "probably".  A negative test result IS VALUABLE.  The problem is, sometimes that result is wrong and you are really infected.  That is, the test gave you a false negative.  These tests produce more false negatives than false positives.  

Why is that a problem?  Well, heck, you are all happy and buzzing around after your negative test result and if you are actually positive despite the negative test result, you could be infecting other people.  No bueno!!  That is NOT good!

On the other hand, if you have been careful, continue to be careful, and are not changing your apparently successful behavior, then you are good.  And particularly if you get a series of CV tests (once a month?  Once every two weeks? Or if at-risk as often as twice a week?) you develop more and more confidence in your "hygiene regime" if you test negative over and over and over again.

Now, to be sure, no BIOLOGICAL test is perfect.  And there are timing effects regarding when you were exposed and when you get tested and there are some  "specificity" issues with the COVID-19 test ("Sensitivity" is the ability of a test to correctly identify patients with a disease and "Specificity" is the ability of a test to correctly identify people WITHOUT the disease) but at the end of the day....

THERE IS ABSOLUTELY NO QUESTION THAT IT IS BETTER TO GET TESTED THAN TO NOT GET TESTED.

In fact, there is no way the public health authorities are going to know where the coronavirus is located and where it is NOT located if you do not get tested.  If nobody in Winters gets the CV test then the Health Department will not know what is happening there..... and if people get sick won't know what it is from and if they die, won't know what it was from and the Health Department won't be able to do an intervention if there is an outbreak in Winters.  Boom, Winters out of commission!

So, for yourself, for your family, for your co-workers, and for your community (town, county) please get tested and get tested more than once.  The trend of your test results will tell you volumes about how well you are doing.

Regards,

John

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