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Flattening the Coronavirus Curve



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At the end of February, Drew Harris, a population health analyst at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, had just flown across the country to visit his daughter in Eugene, Ore., when he saw an article on his Google news feed. It was from The Economist, and was about limiting the damage of the coronavirus.
The accompanying art, by the visual-data journalist Rosamund Pearce, based on a graphic that had appeared in a C.D.C. paper titled “Community Mitigation Guidelines to Prevent Pandemic Influenza,” showed what Dr. Harris called two epi curves. One had a steep peak indicating a surge of coronavirus outbreak in the near term; the other had a flatter slope, indicating a more gradual rate of infection over a longer period of time.
The gentler curve ultimately results in fewer people infected and fewer deaths. “What we need to do is flatten that down,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, during the coronavirus task force briefing at the White House on Tuesday evening. “You do that with trying to interfere with the natural flow of the outbreak.”
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