Think positive

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Greg B. Macabenta


Hopefully none of our readers is positive for COVID-19. Nonetheless, I suggest that every one of us should think positive — meaning, we should consider ourselves positive for the disease. 

If that doesn’t make sense, believe me, it’s one effective way to prevent the spread of COVID-19. 

If we consider ourselves as possible carriers of the virus, this will remind us to strictly observe social distancing, and thus prevent us from infecting others, in case we are actually infected but are unaware of it (asymptomatic). This also prevents those who are positive from passing on the virus to us. 

The coronavirus is like a mole, an undercover spy, in a high security facility. No one knows who the mole is, although it is apparent that there is a security leak and it is being caused by someone. 

How to expose the mole? 


In a real-life spy search, as a first step, you should consider everyone a suspect. Then, you pretend to confide some “top secret information” (actually, a red herring) to one suspect. You then whisper a different version of the “secret” to a second suspect — and still another version to a third suspect   and so on. At the end of this process, you will have confided a different version of the ostensibly top secret information to each of several suspects. 

You can then easily trace the source of a specific variation of the information, should there be a leak. The mole can be identified through the process of elimination.  

Unfortunately, identifying a COVID-19 carrier is different from exposing a spy because, in this case, until testing is conducted, everyone should be considered a suspected carrier – including yourself. Thus, it is best to “think positive” — in other words, to consider yourself positive for the virus. 

This is important, because the two deadly characteristics of COVID-19 are its high transmissibility (it is highly infectious), and the seemingly mild symptoms that are initially apparent (like the symptoms of an ordinary cold or cough or even a flu). 

Note, however, that being infected with COVID-19 is not necessarily a death sentence. In fact, the majority of those infected recover. That’s the good news. 

The bad news is that, because the incubation period of the virus can vary from a few days to two weeks, you could, in fact, be a carrier without ever being aware of it. You could unknowingly pass it on to someone else.  

When your pulmonary system has already been overrun by the virus, it could be too late. You may have already infected others, before you can be quarantined.

Tragically, those you infect could be people you love.

To minimize the possibility of any of this happening, it is best to think positive. 

The sick joke is that COVID-19 is a “democratic disease” — it is non-discriminatory, it does not distinguish between rich or poor, male or female, young or old, famous or a mere face in the crowd.   

Such lofty personalities as Prince Charles of the United Kingdom and Prince Albert of Monaco have been found positive, as well as UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson; Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, wife of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau; Hollywood superstar Tom Hanks and CNN host-commentator Chris Cuomo, the younger brother of New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo. 

It was initially reported that the elderly are particularly vulnerable to the virus mainly because, like an old jalopy, older people are no longer in tip-top condition and not as resistant to illness as the young. However, reports from New York City, which has become the epicenter of COVID-19 in the US, reveal that more than half of the thousands found positive are from 18 to 49 years old. In fact, in the US, an infant was among the recent fatalities. And athletes, like NBA star Kevin Durant, have been found positive. 

Healthcare workers, particularly doctors and nurses, have also been infected — and hundreds have died. In an earlier column, I pointed out that Filipino doctors and nurses are on the coronavirus frontlines in large numbers, the Philippines being one of the world’s main exporters of healthcare professionals. 

Policemen and members of the military have been among the first responders to the coronavirus pandemic around the world, and this includes the Philippines. They have been tasked with ensuring public compliance with national lockdowns and social distancing directives. However, many of them have been sent to the frontlines without the necessary protective gear. 

I, frankly, fear for the members of the Philippine National Police and other public servants whose responsibility is the safety of the citizenry, even while they themselves are exposed to the disease. I also fear for their families whom they could infect.  

Now, at the risk of sounding flippant, I should point out that there are certain “positive” aspects of the pandemic. And I really mean positive, as in, something beneficial resulting from this crisis. 

I understand that the horrible Manila traffic problem, which authorities had given up trying to solve, has practically vanished. This has also resulted in cleaner air in Metro Manila, as has also been noted in other smog-afflicted cities of the world like Los Angeles and New York. 

A nephew posted on Facebook video footage of him driving up EDSA at a fast clip. The last time I visited Manila, my driver and I were literally crawling along EDSA. 

As a member of the executive committee of one of the largest Filipino-owned supermarket chains in the US and Canada, I noted the consensus that the pandemic may have significantly changed the buying habits of consumers — a trend that forward-looking businessmen should prepare for. I was impressed with the proactive way that the company’s management has responded to these changes. 

Amazon, which risked billions of dollars on the concept of online retail marketing, has benefited greatly from the pandemic. The traditional brick-and-mortar retail outlets have had to take notice, much more than they did during the holiday season, when Amazon took away a lot of sales from them. The COVID-19 crisis has made the importance of online selling a stark reality.

Home deliveries of meals and groceries by restaurants and supermarkets, a relatively new concept in technologically advanced America, may become a permanent service offering as a result of the pandemic.

My grandchildren, most of whom are in grade school, have also begun to adjust to onlinelearning, because schools have remained closed in the US. And Facetime has also made bonding with the kids possible in spite of the forced isolation. 

Of course, this has also exposed a digital divide in America, with poorer families being unable to afford computers and Wi-Fi connections. This digital divide is probably more acutely experienced in the Philippines. 

Finally, some friends have observed that the work-from-home regimen in Manila has resulted in husbands getting to know their families again, especially their children. While this situation does not necessarily apply in the US, where husbands usually go home early and spend time with their wives, or risk a divorce, Pinoy husbands are notorious for hanging out with the barkada (friends) after office hours and enjoying “one for the road” — that, aside from maintaining a second or even a third family. 

The lockdown decreed by the Philippine government has resulted in a virtual “house arrest” for erstwhile gallivanting PInoy husbands, resulting in family bonding. 

In this connection, a friend jestingly asked, “What about those who have more than one house?” 

My response: “Ask Erap.”