Scotskim: To flatten the curve

The+idea+behind+social+distancing+is+flattening+the+curve+of+the+outbreak.+This+means+not+reducing+the+number+of+people+infected+but+rather+the+rate+at+which+they+become+infected.+This+is+critical+to+ensure+the+healthcare+system+is+not+overwhelmed.

Slow the Spread/Mvolz/commons.wikimedia.org/CC 2.0

The idea behind social distancing is flattening the curve of the outbreak. This means not reducing the number of people infected but rather the rate at which they become infected. This is critical to ensure the healthcare system is not overwhelmed.

COVID-19 cases almost doubled in just three days in San Mateo County, according to data from John Hopkins CSSE, and the death rate is now 3%, according to smchealth.org.

With a state-wide shelter in place ordered on March 19, similar to the order made in San Mateo County on March 16, the rate of infection was supposed to decrease—and it did. But at the current rate, what California is doing might not be enough.

Approximately 5% of all cases are severe enough to necessitate hospitalization, according to statnews.com. California hospitals have approximately 75,000 beds, according to California Gov. Gavin Newsom. However, 56% of all Californians are expected to get COVID-19, according to Newsom

California has a population of 39.51 million people as of 2019, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. If 56% of the population falls ill, that means there would be 22.15 million cases. With the approximated 5% rate of severe cases, that leaves 1.1 million Californians in need of hospital care, far exceeding the 75,000-bed capacity that California has.

This also doesn’t consider the many other resources hospitals need to combat the pandemic appropriately: ventilators, staff, gloves, and masks are among the supplies that are essential in treating infectious diseases like COVID-19.

If California is overwhelmed by this virus, the state will not have enough resources on hand to combat it, and that’s why social distancing is so imperative. If those 1.1 million Californians who fall seriously ill do so over the course of several months rather than a few weeks or days, hospitals will likely have enough resources to treat more of them effectively.

COVID-19 Quick Guide by Anita Beroza

The concept behind this is called “flattening the curve,” and the idea is not to change the number of infected (because, according to the Washington Post, it might be too late to do so), but rather to spread the number of cases out over a longer period of time. This keeps the total number of cases below the healthcare system's capacity.

This technique may be effective, especially if the “surge plans” developed by hospitals to create temporary care for overflowing numbers of patients are effective.

These plans aim to add 30,000 new beds to California hospitals, which leave bed numbers just under the 1.1 million who are likely to get sick. Newsom said he also plans to seek 20,000 beds coming from out of state, 3,000 of which are confirmed to be available.

Even if bed numbers are under control, other resources certainly aren’t. Masks are in short supply, so much so that some doctors are reusing them, according to LiveScience. This practice is generally strongly disadvised by the Centers for Disease Control an Prevention (CDC).

Find out how to donate unused N95 masks and other personal protective equipment to doctors here.