By A.J. Kay
More than half of U.S. states have instituted lockdown measures in response to the spread of the COVID-19 virus. These policies are justified as an effort to “flatten the curve,” a phrase coined by Dr. Howard Markel, a pediatrician, and professor of medical history at the University of Michigan.
The hypothetical COVID curve we are trying to flatten — the time rate at which the number of people needing intensive medical treatment will grow to exceed our capacity to care for them — is based on assumptions about when COVID was brought to the US, the speed of its transmission, and the ability of our healthcare system to accommodate the most severely affected patients. By isolating citizens in their homes, lockdown policies intend to slow the rate of infection, thereby “flattening” the curve, which will allow us to ration healthcare resources over time.