For many, this pandemic has left us scrambling to find equilibrium. We're scared for our friends, family, and neighbors, and while some are saying it's overblown, the scientists are saying otherwise. It’s almost like we’ve fallen into some twisted horror story, and we’re all holding our collective breath waiting to see what will happen next. The coronavirus has everyone on edge, afraid for the sick and frail, afraid to threaten the wellbeing of the people close to them. You may be wondering what you can do to help. Well, scientists have come to the rescue. Each of us can be superheroes by doing our part to “flatten the curve.”Here's what it means, how to do it effectively, and why it matters.
The coronavirus has proven to be deadly and highly contagious and has exploded in China and Italy, and now the United States. It may seem small as we write this or as you're reading it. But if we do our part, we can save lives, potentially millions of them. If we want to keep our death rate as low as possible, we’ll need to flatten the curve and reduce the infection rate to slow the spike in transmission and give the hospitals the best chance at keeping up and keeping people alive.
We’ve seen how fast the coronavirus can spread — and the death count is rising by the day all over the world. China and Italy have lost thousands of lives already, proof that a slow response to this disease can have catastrophic consequences. Now that the numbers have begun to explode in the United States, we’re hearing from scientists that strict measures are necessary or we, too, will see the death count rise dramatically —and it won't be"just the sick and old" who are lost, either.
The University of Michigan explains that you can look at an area’s infection rate like a bell curve: A high, sudden spike in numbers creates a taller curve, while a slower infection rate does the opposite. It flattens the curve, slows the rate of transmission, and helps medical staff (and supplies) to better keep up.
The reason this is so important is that hospitals in any given area have a limited supply of beds, medical supplies, and life-saving equipment. When the number of seriously ill people grossly outnumbers the available resources, people go untreated; people who might otherwise have lived will die. The higher that bell curve, the higher the death rate, and the more we can do to keep the transmission from moving through the population too fast, the better chance we give to everyone. Simply put: we save lives.
The fastest and most effective way to reduce the bell curve is social distancing and self-isolation. By eliminating crowds and gatherings and asking people to isolate themselves at home, we are creating distance between ourselves and slowing the transmission of the virus through the community. You may have noticed businesses shutting down at the moment to reduce exposure. PBS reports that Major League Baseball and the National Hockey League are postponing their seasons, along with the National Collegiate Athletic Association canceling March Madness —and there are more cancellations happening every day. Even Disneyland and Disney World have closed until at least the end of this month. Additionally, USA Today reports that schools and colleges in a dozen states are closing down and all major cruise lines are halting their cruises to and from US ports for 30 days.
This isn't being done to annoy anyone. But to save lives. We can't stress this enough: Staying home saves lives. Dr. Fauci, the infectious disease expert for the National Institutes of Health has said: "If it looks like you're overreacting, you're probably doing the right thing."
It’s important that we all do our part to help out. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that we avoid groups of more than 10 people for at least the next 15 days and we should be aware this may go on for longer than that. Stay away from crowded places where people gather, such as church and gym classes, and if you can, limit trips to the grocery stores which are very crowded at the moment. Avoid malls, bars, nightclubs and restaurants even if they are open. Opt to work from home if you’re able to and stay away from concerts, conferences, theaters and other places where people gather.
If you have school-aged children, it’s important to avoid treating their time off as a reason to socialize. Many are recommending that we find ways to let kids gather through electronic means rather than in person. Also, be sure to keep your kids away from jungle gyms and monkey bars, which may not be disinfected.
When you must go somewhere, such as the supermarket or pharmacy, try not to get within 6 feet of other people. Practice washing your hands and using hand sanitizer when you can’t get to a sink. Postpone or cancel travel plans as well. Heed all restrictions as they come, even if it causes some inconvenience.
We could be seeing some scary times ahead, but we can come together and avoid the worst of it if we act now. We can flatten the curve and keep our casualties to a minimum. We can give everyone the best chance to make it through if we focus on the community as a whole and commit to making real changes today.