Flatten the Curve.
These three words strike fear into my heart. We are facing a crisis unprecedented since the events of The Great Influenza almost 102 years ago. They feel like a malediction. A curse. But we can transform them into a rallying cry; a modern “Keep Calm and Carry On.”
But first, we have to face reality: despite our modern medical system, despite our ability to identify and isolate pathogens, our bodies are still as vulnerable to infections as they have always been. Most of us will eventually be exposed to this new virus. Some of us will become very sick. And some of us will die.
“Flatten the Curve” is about our communal effort to keep that last number as low as possible. By slowing down the rate of spread, we will not all become infected in a short period of time, and our hospitals may be able to keep up with the extreme demand.
Right now Italy is a case study of what happens when we do not succeed: doctors and nurses forced to decide which patients will not be able to have access to ventilators; people left to die without treatment.
To avoid that tragic scenario we will work communally, which will, rather ironically, mean practicing social distancing. We will be apart, but together.
Sadly, we are seeing the baser parts of human nature already. Greed has reared its ugly head in the form of profiteers, who buy up crucial supplies then sell them at obscene mark-ups to desperate people. Hopefully, these sorts of people will find themselves shamed out of these sorts of behaviours.
We should focus instead on our better traits, such as camaraderie and courage. Who can watch videos of Wuhan’s tower-dwellers shouting encouraging phrases to one another from their balconies, or Italians singing folk songs with one another from their windows, and not feel inspired to be just as courageous in the face of fearful infection?
I have already seen many examples of kindness and generosity on Facebook, as people offer help with shopping to those who feel too vulnerable to venture out, or just letting each other know which stores still have toilet paper for sale. I was gratified by the response to a post I made, asking if anyone might be able to lend my daughter a laptop for two weeks while our computer is in for repairs, as we are self isolating and she wants to be able to game with her friends. In less than two hours four people had contacted me with offers!
So, dear readers, take heart. This is not 1918, when nations at war made it illegal to report on the epidemic for fear of weakening morale; we have as much information as we could ever want or need. We know that if we practice good hand hygiene and social distancing, we can slow the pace of Covid-19, giving our hospitals a fighting chance to save as many lives as possible.
Together but apart, separate in solidarity, we shall “Flatten the Curve”!
Nicole Sims is a citizen of Squamish.