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How 'flattening the curve' will help slow the spread of coronavirus

Posted at 11:23 PM, Mar 16, 2020

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — It's easy to be frustrated by so many closures caused by COVID-19, but they are important.

You've probably seen illustrations from the CDC, among others, but many haven't seen what's called "flattening the curve."

According to health experts, there’s a reason why closures are important right now. It’s what epidemiologists call “flattening the curve.”

the flattening curve

The idea is, without protective measures like social distancing, the United States could see a spike in coronavirus cases. That could overwhelm our healthcare system and lead to more deaths. With protective measures, like Tallahassee's growing list of canceled/postponed events, cases will be more spread out over time and stay within our health care system capacity.

Retired Brigadier General Michael McDaniel, who most recently served as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Homeland Defense Strategy, Prevention and Mission Assurance, said flattening the curve means our public health community will be able to respond to the coronavirus cases.

"We’ll have enough hospital beds, we’ll have enough ventilators, we’ll have enough respirators,” said McDaniel, now an associate dean at Western Michigan University Cooley Law School. “So that we can adequately respond to this and that will lower the lethality all by itself.”

“Essentially what we’re trying to do is take the fuel away from the fire," said Dr. Douglas Holt, director of the Hillsborough County Health Department. "If COVID-19 is already present in the community, and you have a large event, it just can explode."

Health experts say social distancing may not change the total number of people infected, but emphasize it will slow down the rate of people getting sick at any one particular time — to avoid a flood of patients into hospitals.