October 19, 2020

COVID-19: The curve is fattening, not flattening. What can we do?

Now that we know more about the coronavirus, this is the time to stay the course to prevent infections and buy time until vaccines are ready, expert says

Michigan Medicine COVID-19 curve

A deadly virus killed hundreds of thousands of Americans in just a few months.

Health officials made rules to stop its spread, but those rules varied widely across the country.

Many people wore masks to block the tiny killer — but not everyone.

It worked for a while, but the number of cases kept rising.

And hundreds of thousands more people died.

The story of 2020? No — that’s the story of the 1918-1919 flu pandemic in a nutshell.

But now history seems to be repeating itself with the coronavirus. After “flattening the curve” of cases in late spring and again in late summer, cases of COVID-19 have surged in October.

Howard Markel, M.D., Ph.D., for one, is deeply dismayed — but not surprised.

He’s a medical historian at the University of Michigan whose team’s in-depth study of the 1918 flu led him to co-invent to the phrase “flatten the curve.” The team’s findings helped influence this year’s global effort to fight the coronavirus through masks, physical distancing and rules about certain types of gatherings, and business and entertainment activities.

“I really do fear that, between COVID-19 and the regular seasonal flu, this coming winter and spring could be as bad as, or worse than, what we saw in the horrible spring of 2020,” he says.

But we’re not doomed to repeat the fiasco of 102 years ago, he says.