What Does it Mean to Flatten the Curve of the Coronavirus?

By Amanda Roland

With COVID-19 running rampant right now, you’ve probably seen a few new buzz words being thrown around. Two of which are social distancing and “flattening the curve.” We’ve already gone over what social distancing is, but what does it mean to flatten the curve?

The idea of “flattening the curve” comes to us from Drew Harris, a population health analyst at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia. He recreated an infographic from the CDC and posted it on Twitter and LinkedIn. This post about the virus went viral. 

The initial infographic was from a CDC paper titled “Community Mitigation Guidelines to Prevent Pandemic Influenza,” and the graphic was created by Rosamund Pearce. 

The graphic shows the surge of the coronavirus in two peaks. The first, more spiked curve indicates a quick increase in the coronavirus outbreak in a short period of time, and the second, more flat curve indicates a more gradual spread of the coronavirus over a long period of time. There is also a horizontal dotted line above the second curve indicating our healthcare system capacity. 

So, flattening the curve essentially means that we need to get the sharp increase in coronavirus cases down by spreading out the number of cases over a longer period of time. This will ensure that our healthcare system has the time to prepare and treat the influx of patients.

How do we flatten the curve, then? Well, to flatten the curve we need to find ways to stifle the spread of the virus. Ways in which we can do this is to keep people apart by social distancing, self-isolation to avoid catching the virus and quarantining if you begin to feel sick. Reducing the number of people you interact with by working from home or staggering working hours, avoiding crowded locations and by staying as clean and sanitized as possible are also valuable ways. 

It is also important to be conscious of those who are in a higher-risk group for catching the virus and it being more dangerous for them than it may be for you.

By Isabella Sorresso