What does it mean to “flatten the curve”?

The New York Times article How Much Worse the Coronavirus Could Get, in Charts by Nicholas Kristof and  Stuart A. Thompson (3/13/2020) has a great interactive set of graphs that illustrate the importance of flattening the curve. The graphs start with the one copied here.

What’s at stake in this coronavirus pandemic? How many Americans can become infected? How many might die?

The answers depend on the actions we take — and, crucially, on when we take them. Working with infectious disease epidemiologists, we developed this interactive tool that lets you see what may lie ahead in the United States and how much of a difference it could make if officials act quickly.

One of the interesting features is that the user can drag a bar which is the date interventions begin and see how the curve changes.

About Thomas J. Pfaff

Thomas J. Pfaff is a Professor of Mathematics at Ithaca College. He created this website because he believes that sustainability, ranging from climate change to social justice, should be included in all courses whenever possible.

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