What is the curve?
The “curve” researchers are talking about refers to the projected number of people who will contract COVID-19 over a period of time. (To be clear, this is not a hard prediction of how many people will definitely be infected, but a theoretical number that’s used to model the virus’ spread.) Here’s what one looks like:
The curve takes on different shapes, depending on the virus’s infection rate. It could be a steep curve, in which the virus spreads exponentially (that is, case counts keep doubling at a consistent rate), and the total number of cases skyrockets to its peak within a few weeks. Infection curves with a steep rise also have a steep fall; after the virus infects pretty much everyone who can be infected, case numbers begin to drop exponentially, too.
The faster the infection curve rises, the quicker the local health care system gets overloaded beyond its capacity to treat people. As we’re seeing in Italy, more and more new patients may be forced to go without ICU beds, and more and more hospitals may run out of the basic supplies they need to respond to the outbreak.
A flatter curve, on the other hand, assumes the same number of people ultimately get infected, but over a longer period of time. A slower infection rate means a less stressed health care system, fewer hospital visits on any given day and fewer sick people being turned away.
Did you get that? Most people think it will save the number of people to get infected and therefore save lives. The truth is that the health professionals may be able to save more lives if the infected show up for treatment over a longer period of time. That makes sense and our doctors and nurses can get and are, in many communities swamped already. So some cooperation on the part of the people to help our healthcare professionals is certainly warranted.
However, we are not going to stop the number of infected and we are not necessarily going to save lives. Let me explain:
Many people have put off their doctors appointments and non-life threatening (in their estimation) surgeries and procedures. I have cancelled a stress test after an anomaly was found in my EKG during my physical. I don’t know what it is and if it is serious or not but I will now wait to find out (hope I don’t die while I’m waiting). I also have a urology exam scheduled for next week but he wants to do a tele-medical call rather than a usual exam. I hope he doesn’t need to look at anything that usually would call for ultrasound or a CAT scan. And I am relatively healthy for my age.
How many people who truly need help for their various ailments are going to die because they are separated from their normal care?
I have a question as to whether more people will die by bowing to the Covid-19 needs rather than their other medical needs. More doctors and screening of patients for the disease before they go out and spread things around in public or in the doctor’s offices or hospitals. In the meantime, I would guess that our healthcare for the normal problems people face during this time will possibly kill more than are saved by doing the best they can (as was done in the past with other pandemics). They peak and go away quicker.
And this does not even take into account the number of people who have lost their jobs, their savings and the prospect of losing their homes or not being able to get what they need to keep body and soul together without exposing themselves to the system as they go through the Federal and State authorities to get help. Will that expose them and their families to the virus which will hit them in a much higher rate than will those who have retained their jobs and are social distancing . . . instead.
Regardless, we all are going to deal with the numbers now or over a longer period of time. The economy of the world is time dependent and cannot wait for the convenience of the disease or the healthcare system. It cannot go on, without work and thus production for very long. That will kill us over a long period of time where we have many who are without jobs and companies who will not have the means to hire people again since their profits have been lost for the year . . . in fact, their very liquidity is at stake. Many companies won’t even survive this ordeal.
How long before crime becomes rampant and the have-not’s start robbing the have’s and the people turn into armed mobs because law enforcement itself becomes compromised?
So damned if we do and damned if we don’t . . . but I vote with a quick disaster rather than a prolonged illness. I am of the school that the numbers of saved by these measures will be far less than the longterm deaths that will continue to cause us problems far after Covid-19 is a mere memory; like Spanish Flu, the Asian Flu, Polio, SARS, MERS and the rest of the pandemics of our past. But this is the path and future that our hysteria has driven us to and there isn’t much I can do but watch the efficacy or foolishness of the course we agreed to follow.
Sadly, I think more will die from the cure rather than saved from their contraction of the disease.