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COVID-19: What Does It Really Mean to Flatten the Curve?

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If you’ve been working from home or only leaving the house for essential trips because of coronavirus, you likely know what social distancing is. On Monday, March 16, 2020, the White House released “The President’s Coronavirus Guidelines for America: 30 Days to Slow the Spread,” which implemented social distancing at all levels of society to slow the spread of coronavirus.

These guidelines are designed to flatten the curve. This term has been mentioned a lot in the news lately, and it’s more than a popular saying. You may wonder if social distancing is really worth it, and that’s where flattening the curve comes in. We’ll explain what flattening the curve truly means and why the concept is an important strategy to slow the spread of coronavirus. 

Tracking Coronavirus

In a pandemic — a global outbreak of disease — and other escalating health crises, public health statisticians from leading organizations, such the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO), track the number of confirmed cases, deaths and recovered cases. 

Understanding the Curve

The word curve in the term flattening the curve doesn’t refer to the true number of COVID-19 cases. Rather, it refers to the projected number of people who will contract coronavirus.

More specifically, the curve is actually two curves in a chart that demonstrate the spread of the virus with and without protective measures, such as social distancing. A dotted line through the curves on the graph represents the peak capacity of the health care system to care for a projected number of patients.

Because this strain of coronavirus is new, few people have immunity, and a vaccine to prevent the spread of the disease isn’t yet available. There’s a lot we still don’t know about COVID-19, but we do know that it’s a highly contagious disease that can easily spread through a community.

Steep Versus Smooth Curves

According to the CDC, the widespread transmission of coronavirus could mean a lot of people need medical care at the same time. If that happens, the anticipated number of coronavirus cases will surge, which is represented on the chart by the steep curve.

To avoid overloading our community’s health care systems because of elevated rates of people needing to be hospitalized, flattening the curve means slowing the spread of this virus over time using social distancing, which looks like a lower, smoother curve on the chart.

Social Distancing Flattens the Curve

The key message of flattening the curve is that social distancing can help delay the spread of coronavirus from person to person. We know this from past flu pandemics. According to the National Institutes of Health, mandatory school closures and other social distancing measures reduced the transmission rates of the H1N1 flu pandemic in Mexico in 2009.

Do Your Part to Flatten the Curve

To date, all 50 states have reported coronavirus cases to the CDC. The CDC tracks the number of reported cases and updates the data at noon, Monday through Friday.

You and your family can help flatten the curve by slowing the transmission of coronavirus to reduce the burden on the U.S. health care system.

Slowing the spread of coronavirus is everyone’s responsibility, including yours personally. Even if you’re not sick, please practice social distancing. And if you’re not feeling well, stay at home, not just so that you can heal, but so that you don’t put other people — like family members and health care professionals — in harm’s way.

When everyone takes social distancing as their personal responsibility, we can slow the spread of coronavirus, together.

To get started, everyone is encouraged to take these important steps.

Follow the Guidelines

Follow “The President’s Coronavirus Guidelines for America: 15 Days to Slow the Spread,” which advises you to:

  • Listen to and follow the directions of your state and local authorities
  • If you feel sick, stay home
  • If your children are sick, keep them at home
  • If someone in your household has tested positive for coronavirus, keep the entire household at home
  • If you are an older person, stay home and away from other people
  • If you have a serious underlying health condition like heart disease or cancer, stay home and away from other people

Call Your Doctor if You Don’t Feel Well

If you develop symptoms of COVID-19, call your doctor or schedule a video visit with them through the AdventHealth app. Communicating by phone or video can safely provide your doctor with the details needed to make an informed medical decision about the care you may need.

According to the CDC, symptoms of COVID-19 include:

  • Cough
  • Fever
  • Shortness of breath

Symptoms can develop two to 14 days after being exposed to the virus, which is thought to spread through droplets in the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes.

To schedule a video visit, simply download the AdventHealth App from the Google Play Store or the Apple App Store on your smartphone or tablet.

When you call or have a video visit, tell your doctor you think you have COVID-19 or may have been infected by coronavirus. Most people, even those at higher risk for COVID-19 complications, can recover from the illness at home.

Stay Home

If there’s an outbreak of coronavirus in your community or you’re at high risk of developing COVID-19 complications because you’re older or have an underlying medication condition, (such as lung disease, heart disease or diabetes) stay home.

Staying home plays a big part in flattening the curve. That includes avoiding unnecessary travel, including cruise travel; going out to eat; and using public transportation, including ridesharing services.

Cut down on your trips to the store, too. The CDC recommends stocking up on essentials, such as food, pet food, and prescription and over-the-counter medication.

If you can’t get an extra supply of medications or food, you can sign up for a mail-order or grocery delivery service to have your medication and groceries delivered to your door.

If your symptoms seem more serious or you’re at high risk for COVID-19 complications, your doctor can advise you on what to do next, based on what you’re experiencing and your overall health status.

If You’re Sick, Self-Quarantine as Best You Can

Distance yourself at home if you have COVID-19 or think you have it. Quarantining yourself in a designated sick room in your house, such as your bedroom, and staying there as much as possible may seem extreme. But it’s an important way to contain coronavirus and prevent it from spreading to other members of your family. Use a separate bathroom too, if you can.

To protect family members and other caregivers you live with from getting sick and risking spreading coronavirus, keep a distance of at least 6 feet. To communicate with family members from a safe distance, you can text them, or talk from across the room.

Avoid Physical Contact With Other People

Greet others with a wave, nod or bow, even if someone doesn’t seem sick. According to the CDC, people with the virus may be able to spread it before they show symptoms.

Daily Habits to Flatten the Curve

You can do your part to slow the spread of coronavirus through your daily habits, too.

Wash your hands often, especially after sneezing, blowing your nose, coughing or being in a public place. Wash them with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Encourage family members to do the same.

Clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces often. Spot clean in your home often by cleaning and disinfecting surfaces that everyone frequently touches, such as tables, doorknobs, sinks, faucets, desks, toilets, switches, handles and trash cans.

If you have to go out, don’t touch public surfaces. Viruses are known to lurk on handrails, door handles and elevator buttons. Use your sleeve or a tissue to cover your hand before touching these areas. Also, try to avoid touching your face, nose and eyes, which are entry points for germs.

Let’s Work Together to Flatten the Curve

Social distancing isn’t always easy, but it’s an important strategy for slowing the spread of coronavirus. For more information about what you and your family can do to stay healthy and limit coronavirus spread, visit our Coronavirus Resource Hub for the latest updates.

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