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  Flatten the curve? 曲线平缓          【字体:
Flatten the curve? 曲线平缓
作者:张欣    文章来源:中国日报-英语点津    点击数:7    更新时间:2020/3/24   

Reader question:

Please explain this sentence, with "flatten the curve" in particular: Now is the time to stay inside as much as possible and do your part to flatten the curve.


My comments:

Obviously we are talking about the coronavirus and "flatten the curve" is a jargon medical experts keep using these days. By jargon, I mean it's something the technical people understand easily but laymen like you and I cannot grasp without difficulty.

First, let me paraphrase:

Now is the time to stay at home. That way, your contact with other people is limited, and your chance of getting infected is reduced also. If all people stay inside, the overall number of infections will drop.

Yes, flattening the curve means reducing the number of infections.

The question is, really, what curve?

Curve refers to the imaginary arch in a numbers graph or chart, a diagrammatical illustration of a set of data, depicting, say, the economy growing or decreasing during a certain period of time.

Let's use coronavirus infections for example. If the infections grow by 50 per cent this week, from a growth of 10 percent last week, the curve in the graph or chart is curved upward. If next week, the number of infections grows by 70 per cent, the curve arches further up.

If two weeks later, the number of infections drops sharply, the curve goes down steeply.

To flatten the curve, literally is to reduce and then keep the growth rate to a more or less stable point, so the curve looks like a level line rather than the shape of a rainbow or the country road in the mountains. In other words, the curve is flattened.

If the coronavirus growth curve is flattened or looks flat, then the number of infections is reduced. In other words, the spread of the virus has stabilized, after having run wild and out of control for some time.

That means, of course, hurrah!

Perhaps soon after that, all public places will be open again.

In other words, we're able to go outside have some fun - just like the old days.

No more ado, here are examples of "flatten the curve" from the media in the past few days:


1. As the coronavirus continues to spread in the U.S., more and more businesses are sending employees off to work from home. Public schools are closing, universities are holding classes online, major events are getting canceled, and cultural institutions are shutting their doors. Even Disney World and Disneyland are set to close. The disruption of daily life for many Americans is real and significant — but so are the potential life-saving benefits.

It's all part of an effort to do what epidemiologists call flattening the curve of the pandemic. The idea is to increase social distancing in order to slow the spread of the virus, so that you don't get a huge spike in the number of people getting sick all at once. If that were to happen, there wouldn't be enough hospital beds or mechanical ventilators for everyone who needs them, and the U.S. hospital system would be overwhelmed. That's already happening in Italy.

"If you think of our health care system as a subway car and it's rush hour and everybody wants to get on the car once, they start piling up at the door," says Drew Harris, a population health researcher at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia. "They pile up on the platform. There's just not enough room in the car to take care of everybody, to accommodate everybody. That's the system that is overwhelmed. It just can't handle it, and people wind up not getting services that they need."

- Flattening A Pandemic's Curve: Why Staying Home Now Can Save Lives, NPR.org, March 13. 2020.


2. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) said he doesn’t believe New York’s health care system will be able to meet the demand required by coronavirus patients, NPR reports.

Said Cuomo: “I don’t believe we’ll be able to flatten the curve enough to meet the capacity of the health care system.”

He repeatedly said the federal government will need to do more and said his administration is working with the National Guard and health officials to identify facilities that could be retrofitted to serve as hospitals, like dorms and old nursing homes.

- Cuomo Doesn’t Think New York Can ‘Flatten the Curve’, PoliticalWire.com, March 16, 2020.


3. AS NEW GUIDELINES AND restrictions aimed at combating the novel coronavirus emerge around the country, a population health analyst who's called attention to the importance of "flattening the curve" says it's crucial that everyone does their part.

"We're in the middle of a war here," says Drew Harris, an assistant professor in the Thomas Jefferson University College of Population Health in Philadelphia. "Not everyone in the war is on the front lines, like our doctors and nurses and other health professionals, but many of us have a role to play. Maybe some of us should be planting victory gardens and collecting aluminum to fight the battle, and we do that through the actions we take."

Last month, Harris tweaked and tweeted a graphic that highlights how implementing prevention efforts early in a pandemic can significantly change the trajectory of its spread by easing the burden on the health care system. The tweet went viral on the social media platform, helping to highlight a concept the federal government also has emphasized.

- Flattening the Coronavirus Curve and the Importance of Social Distancing, USNews.com, March 18, 2020.

本文仅代表作者本人观点,与本网立场无关。欢迎大家讨论学术问题,尊重他人,禁止人身攻击和发布一切违反国家现行法律法规的内容。

About the author:

Zhang Xin is Trainer at chinadaily.com.cn. He has been with China Daily since 1988, when he graduated from Beijing Foreign Studies University. Write him at: zhangxin@chinadaily.com.cn, or raise a question for potential use in a future column.

(作者:张欣 编辑:丹妮)

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