What Does ‘Flatten the Curve’ Mean?

Coronavirus questions, COVID-19 spread

Facts and information about the coronavirus pandemic are constantly changing. Visit the CDC site for the most up-to-date information during the COVID-19 outbreak.

It’s been over a month since the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic. Since then, life has changed for communities across the globe. Schools in Arkansas are closed and students will learn from home for the rest of the year. Many Arkansans are working remotely from home or are out of work because of the coronavirus outbreak.

You may have heard health officials call upon Americans to help flatten the curve, or you’ve read that social distancing can help flatten the curve of COVID-19 cases. So what does “flatten the curve” mean, how will it help, and how can you help flatten the curve?

What does “flatten the curve” mean?

These two curves show two potential peaks for an epidemic. These curves are hypothetical projections rather than actual representations of data. However, it’s a model based on historical data from past epidemics.

As you can see, there is a steeper curve with a high peak number of cases and a flatter curve with a lower peak number of cases. This is what people are referring to when they say that we need to flatten the curve.

The first curve represents the number of cases that are likely to happen without taking preventative actions such as social distancing and physical separation. A large number of people get sick all at once.

The second curve represents the number of cases if we all do our part to mitigate the spread of the disease. While people may still get sick, the number of people who get sick all at once is lower.

Why do we want to flatten the curve?

Even if both curves show the same number of people who get sick, there are fewer deaths with the flatter curve.

In the first curve—where people do not take preventative actions to limit the spread of disease—so many people get sick that we do not have enough hospitals, clinics, and medical professionals to treat everyone. This leads to difficult decisions about which patients get a hospital bed or any type of treatment at all.

Overwhelming our healthcare system results in the highest number of deaths. A steep curve is the worst case scenario for the COVID-19 outbreak.

However, a flatter curve means that the peak number of people sick with COVID-19 does not exceed what our healthcare system can handle. It spreads out the number of illnesses over a longer period of time.

This means that medical facilities have enough room to treat the people who get sick, and we have enough medical staff to provide care for the patients.

How can you flatten the curve?

History shows us that taking preventative actions during an outbreak helps slow the spread of illness and save lives.

The recommended response to the COVID-19 outbreak may seem excessive to some people, but it is the best way to mitigate the spread of coronavirus. The paradox of pandemics is that everyone seems healthy until everyone is suddenly ill.

It’s essential that everyone does his or her part to help flatten the curve and help mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

Here’s what you can do.

  • Practice social distancing at all times.
  • Stay home as much as possible.
  • If you must go out in public, stay six feet away from others.
  • Avoid gatherings of 10 people or more.
  • The CDC recommends wearing homemade cloth face coverings in public.
  • Cover coughs and sneezes with the inside of your elbow.
  • Wash your hands thoroughly for 20 seconds—do this often.
  • Do not touch your face; coronavirus enters through the eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces often.
  • Stay home if you are at a high risk for complications from COVID-19.
  • Stay home if you are sick.

If you have a fever over 100 degrees AND a cough or shortness of breath, call your doctor’s office. Your MANA primary care doctor will monitor your symptoms by scheduling TeleVisits with you every few days.