MILLBURN, NJ — The coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, has changed daily life for the foreseeable future. Through the news, township residents have been cautioned to take preventative measures, such as staying at home.

A key reason for these measures is to “flatten the curve.” The term is said often, And in this article, TAPinto Millburn will take a closer look at that information.

According to Hopkins Medicine, “flattening the curve” refers to “using protective practices to slow the rate of COVID-19 [Coronavirus] infection so hospitals have room, supplies and doctors for all the patients who need care.”

Sign Up for Millburn/Short Hills Newsletter
Our newsletter delivers the local news that you can trust.

Protective practices include frequently washing hands, disinfecting surfaces, covering coughs and sneezes, and social distancing.

In a graph on the Hopkins Medicine website the explanation for why social distancing and other measures are needed becomes clear. The American healthcare system has a finite number of beds, masks, healthcare workers and other medical equipment.

Those resources can only be divvied out to a certain maximum number of people. If the capacity of the medical system is exceeded, resources will have to be divided among the sick, which creates a snowball effect, worsening the illness and deaths due to coronavirus.

The scenario where the capacity is exceeded is illustrated in red curve on the graph. That closely mirrors what is happening in Italy right now. The healthcare system there was overwhelmed at once by a deluge of ill patients, and could not handle the strain.

The second curve in green on the graph is the ideal scenario, and is noticeably less of a drain on resources than the curve in red, hence “flattening the curve.” This is because the green curve has cases spread out over a longer period of time.

Both curves contain the same number of cases, the difference being a matter of when those cases occur. If they occur all at once, like the curve in red, then the country is in trouble.

By working to keep cases down, the healthcare system in the United States will not be overwhelmed, and will able to eventually handle all the cases that come its way.

The United States has the opportunity to learn from the mistakes of other countries, such as Italy. There is still time to flatten the American curve. However, that will not happen unless every person commits to participating in protective measures.

TAPinto Millburn will continue to have local coverage of Coronavirus throughout the course of the story.