Q: What is the curve, and why is it important?
A: Public health authorities often refer to something called “the curve” when discussing a community’s current level of infection for the new coronavirus.
But what exactly is “the curve,” and why is it important?
That term refers to a graphical representation of the number of people infected with the coronavirus over a period of time, said Brittany Burgess, Victoria County epidemiologist, in a written statement Saturday.
“The curve is what we, as epidemiologists and medical professionals, review to determine the frequency of cases over time,” Burgess said. “The more confirmed cases we experience, the higher the curve gets.”
“Flattening the curve” is important, she said, because doing so means having fewer people infected in the community within a period of time.
When many people are infected all at once, resources can become strained.
“We want to minimize the burden of the disease and decrease the threat of overburdening our healthcare systems,” Burgess said. “The term ‘flattening the curve’ is intended to reduce the frequency and spread of confirmed cases to ensure medical systems are not overwhelmed and lack resources available to treat COVID-19 confirmed patients and all others.”
And while the number of new cases of COVID-19 has mostly remained in the single digits each day, Burgess said residents should expect the rate at which new cases are reported to also increase.
“We have to consider exponential growth of a disease like a snowball effect – it just keeps growing if measures are not established to stop it,” she said. “One person with COVID-19 could expose three others, and those three could expose another three. The growth could continue if left unchecked.”