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Remember, a flattening curve means a LONGER sustained period of new infections, distancing

Gov. Larry Hogan explains what flattening the curve means at an April 7 press conference. (ABC7)
Gov. Larry Hogan explains what flattening the curve means at an April 7 press conference. (ABC7)
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Officials around the country are warning that fewer new COVID-19 cases being diagnosed is not a reason for individuals to stop practicing social distancing, or for governments to loosen restrictions on businesses or movement.

Since the beginning of the pandemic's arrival in the U.S., we've heard about "flattening the curve." This refers to enacting measures that would help prevent a sudden spike in cases that would overwhelm the healthcare system.

But that also means that the amount of time that we deal with the pandemic gets stretched out. See the graphic below.

Deaths, hospitalizations and new infections are leveling off in places like Italy and Spain. Even New York, a hotspot in the U.S., has seen encouraging signs amid the gloom. But politicians and health officials warn that the crisis is far from over and a catastrophic second wave could hit if countries let down their guard too soon.

“We are flattening the curve because we are rigorous about social distancing,” New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said. “But it’s not a time to be complacent. It’s not a time to do anything different than we’ve been doing.”

At a April 7 press conference, Governor Larry Hogan explained it this way: "Had we spiked... right away, it would have been overloading the system, but it also would have happened faster. So people are saying 'How fast can we get over this?' The fact that we've dampened down and flattened this curve means it's a longer period of time and we have this longer plateau. So while we're going to not have this overload of the system, it also means it's going to take a while for us to be able to get back ... it's going to take a longer period of time but not be as bad. Which, people are going to have to get ready for that."

Last month, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, who is also a medical doctor, warned that people will have to stay at home and many businesses will remain shuttered for “months, not weeks” as the nation battles the coronavirus pandemic.

Northam warned against “mixed messages" when asked about President Donald Trump's outlook on the coronavirus, and the president's messaging at that time that he hoped the country would reopen by Easter. Northam cited data that says much of normal life will be shut down for two to three months and perhaps longer.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the United States' top infectious-diseases expert, said the Trump administration has been working on plans to eventually reopen the country amid evidence that social distancing is working to stop the virus’s spread.

But he also said it's not time to scale back such measures: “Keep your foot on the accelerator because this is what is going to get us through this,” he said at Wednesday's White House briefing.

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The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation's (IHME) COVID-19 projections, which have been cited in recent White House briefings, show peak dates for resource use and deaths in our area. Click on the name of each jurisdiction to see more.

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