‘Flatten the curve’: The graph health officials say is key to managing COVID 19

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Canada's Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam speaks during a news conference in Ottawa, Monday, March 9, 2020. Health officials are chanting a common refrain in response to the COVID-19 pandemic: Canada needs to "flatten the curve."This catchphrase — invoked by Canada's top doctor and health minister — refers to an epidemiological graph showing the daily number of new cases over time. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Health officials are chanting a common refrain in response to the COVID-19 pandemic: Canada needs to “flatten the curve.”

This catchphrase _ invoked by Canada’s top doctor and health minister _ refers to an epidemiological graph showing the daily number of new cases over time.

Experts say the chart illustrates the importance of slowing the spread of the virus, so that the rate of infection doesn’t outpace our resources to fight against it.

The graph features two bell-shaped curves depicting two possible trajectories for the outbreak.

The first shows a sudden spike in cases overwhelming the limited capacity of the health-care system.

In the other scenario, measures are taken to manage the number of active cases at any given time. This is represented by a flatter curve stretched over a wider timespan.