What ‘flattening the curve’ of coronavirus means

Posted at 7:16 AM, Mar 18, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-18 08:16:24-04

By now, you've heard the term "flattening the curve."

Some experts have warned that if the United States experiences a sudden rush of patients, the healthcare system will be overwhelmed – akin to the way Italy’s resource-strapped doctors are now forced to make tough decisions about which patients to treat.

That’s why experts are emphasizing the importance of “flattening the curve,” which means taking measures now to prevent the disease burden from reaching a critical mass to overload a health system, through interventions suggested by the CDC, such as appropriate handwashing, covering coughs and sneezes, social isolation and quarantine.

Assuming we flatten the curve successfully, the United States will have sufficient resources and “surge capacity” to withstand public health threats.

The World Health Organization declared that COVID-19 is a pandemic.

At this time, experts do not know how wide the disease will spread, though prior estimates predicted that the worst-case scenario could be 60% of the world population being infected.

However, it should be noted that “being infected” is not the same as “being critically ill.”

About 80% of patients will have only mild symptoms, with upper respiratory symptoms or mild pneumonia, according to estimates from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.

Most of these cases can be handled by basic measures at home, including eating, staying hydrated, resting, and giving your body time to fight off the virus.

The remaining 20% who do develop more severe illness will likely need to be hospitalized.

But as long as everyone does their individual responsibility to flatten the curve successfully, this pandemic’s severity can be mitigated.