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A Case for Mediumize

Updated: Apr 14, 2020

By Tasawwar Rahman and Jonah Liss

This article can also be view on through this link.

With more than 7,000 cases in all 50 states, the United States is on pace to become overrun by the novel Coronavirus. The data is clear, convincing, and alarming: the United States is only 10 days behind where Italy was at this point in the pandemic. Unless all of us take steps to #flattenthecurve, our reality might look more like a war story.

The fact is that our health care system does not have the capacity to deal with the expected surge in cases if current trends continue. Countries such as Italy, South Korea, and China, who have all struggled, have more hospital beds per-capita than we do. Even a moderate outbreak could stretch our ICU, intensive care unit, capacity by 400%. The crisis in Italy, where doctors are forced to make the heartbreaking choices of who lives and who dies, may be conceivable in the United States if we do not learn from Italy’s mistakes.

But when trying to flatten the curve, it is important to recognize that we are already behind it. The Coronavirus has an incubation period of between 2 to 14 days, meaning that not only do the tests of today reflect our reality two weeks prior but also that people can spread the virus before showing any symptoms. Because of this delay, the actual number of cases is likely between 10 to 100x what is reported. This fact is especially concerning for the nearly 50 million seniors and members of our society with underlying health conditions who account for the majority of fatalities. COVID-19 currently has no treatment, vaccine, nor herd immunity, so it falls on all of us to protect those who are most at risk.

We do this by Social Distancing or limiting our unnecessary interpersonal contacts. This slows the transmission of the virus and allows our healthcare system to keep up with the demand so that no one gets turned away. Additionally, it allots us the time to assess and isolate those who are sick, as to get ahead of the curve and eradicate the virus.