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What is social distancing and how does it "flatten the curve"?

Wellness | March 19, 2020
flattening the curve of COVID-19
Each of us plays a part in slowing the rate of infection through these preventive measures.

Like it or not, the new coronavirus, COVID-19, continues to disrupt our daily lives. As we face this national emergency together, society is taking increasingly drastic but necessary measures to help prevent and protect against further spread.

As part of these prevention efforts, you’ve likely heard or read about the need to “flatten the curve.” You may wonder what that means.

What is the curve?

The "curve" you hear people talking about refers to the projected number of people who will test positive for COVID-19 over a period of time. Here is what a hypothetical situation could look like. 

flattening the curve of COVID-19

The longer it takes for COVID-19 to spread throughout the population, the more time hospitals have to prepare, which is what we want. This ideal is illustrated by the blue curve above.

What does it mean to “flatten the curve”?

A flatter curve indicates a more gradual rate of infection over a longer period of time. Having a flatter curve results in fewer people being infected within a small window of time, which would prevent a surge that would overwhelm the healthcare system and ideally lead to fewer deaths.

How do we do it?

We accomplish this through preventive measures such as social distancing and proper personal hygiene. These efforts can help reduce the number of active cases, giving healthcare providers (along with other critical infrastructure) time to prepare and respond without becoming overwhelmed.

Everyone has a role to play to help keep each other and our loved ones safe. By practicing social distancing and proper hygiene, collectively we can flatten the curve and save lives. 

Watch the video below from the Washington Post that illustrates the difference social distancing makes in flattening the curve.


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