How “Flattening the Curve” Saves Lives During the Spread of the Coronavirus

The threat of COVID-19 has become a global pandemic and there is a great rush to mitigate the number of infected people and slow the spread of this virus. Depending on where you live determines the intensity of the response. Italy, for instance, is under total shutdown for weeks, and the United States is canceling or postponing large events like the NCAA tournament and closing cultural institutions. If that sounds extreme, a chart known as “flatten the curve” can help you make sense of why these measures are vital in saving lives.

Essentially, epidemiologists want us to “flatten the curve” to prevent a huge spike in COVID-19 cases and overwhelm health care systems’ capacities—including ICU beds, ER visits, and healthcare workers themselves. “Even if you don’t reduce total cases, slowing down the rate of an epidemic can be critical,” tweeted Carl Bergstrom, a biologist at the University of Washington. This idea was first illustrated in a graphic created by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), adapted by population health and policy professor Drew Harris, and made popular by the Economist. It has since gone viral with the hashtag #FlattenTheCurve.

Social distancing is key in flattening the curve. Many U.S. cities, like Seattle, are employing measures of social distancing. People are supposed to work from home when possible and gatherings of over 250 people are banned for the time being. School districts and universities have moved to remote online learning. Libraries, community centers, and parks are closed until mid-April. While this is undoubtedly a disruption to everyday life, doing so slows the progress of the coronavirus and ensures that those who need urgent medical care will have it.

You can do your part by practicing social distancing. If you’re over the age of 60 or have a chronic health condition, you should avoid large groups as much as possible. And if you need to leave your home, keep at least six feet of distance from other people. If you’re younger and healthier but find that you feel ill, stay at home. Monitor yourself for the symptoms of COVID-19 (fever, dry cough, fatigue, and shortness of breath) and contact a medical professional if you have them.

To remain healthy, remember the three most important ways to keep from contracting COVID-19: the first is to wash your hands for 20 seconds, the second is to not touch your face (easier said than done), and the third is to disinfect your phone and other high-touch surfaces.

The idea of “flattening the curve” can help save lives during the COVID-19 outbreak.

With social distancing, it will slow the progress of the coronavirus and ensure that those who need urgent medical care will have it.

h/t: [Twisted Sifter, VOX]

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Sara Barnes

Sara Barnes is a Staff Editor at My Modern Met and Manager of My Modern Met Store. As an illustrator and writer living in Seattle, she chronicles illustration, embroidery, and beyond through her blog Brown Paper Bag and Instagram @brwnpaperbag. She wrote a book about embroidery artist Sarah K. Benning titled 'Embroidered Life' that was published by Chronicle Books in 2019. Sara is a graduate of the Maryland Institute College of Art. She earned her BFA in Illustration in 2008 and MFA in Illustration Practice in 2013.

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