Flattening the 'coronavirus curve' is critical to getting ahead of COVID-19 outbreak

Public health officials say the "coronavirus curve" represents the number of people who have come down with coronavirus over time in relation to the number of health care workers available to stem the spread of the virus.

The line across the middle is America's ability (the number of doctors, hospitals, staff, and equipment) to treat all the people who have the virus.

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“Some estimate that the US healthcare system works at about capacity most of the time,” said Dr. J. Matthew Knight, an Orlando doctor.

What that graph simply shows is that as the number of patients grows, but the number of doctors stays the same, it takes longer for them to treat everyone. If lots of people get the coronavirus quickly, the graph shows a spike in the number of patients in a short amount of time and that presents a shock to the health care system.

Coronavirus curve

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“So it wouldn't take a lot for an epidemic to push us over the curve meaning we've got to prop-up makeshift healthcare facilities in parking lots and wherever's available to us to be able to take care of the masses,” Dr. Knight said.

Containing the virus is key. That's what officials are trying to do in New Rochelle, New York, canceling or postponing public gatherings, closing schools, and businesses, to keep the numbers of infected people from spiking

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“That makes a huge difference in survivability,” said Dr. Knight, “the more hospital beds available, the more acute care facilities that can take care of people who get sick, the better we're going to do as a population.”