A lot of people around the world, including the people making the article you're now reading, are currently at home, trying to work, amid our kids and our worries. Together we're trying to halt the spread of the Corona virus by avoiding other people, – even though we aren't ill ourselves. But why? How does this national and global common effort work?
Let us take a closer look at Dottytown – a very simplified society inspired by the Washington Post Corona Simulator.
The Corona virus is very contagious, and is transferred quickly between humans – through droplets in the air, or surfaces we touch.
Here you can see what happens when a virus is spreading unrestrained:
How severely ill people get varies a lot. Many won't be very affected, and recover quickly.
But some are seriously ill, and will need to be hospitalised for weeks, often because of severe lung inflammation. Then they will need help breathing.
The mechanical ventilators, beds and staff occupied for treating Corona patients are the same needed after a car accident, a house fire, or an operation.
When there are many cases at the same time, it will impact all the people the hospitals would normally be treating too.
"Flattening the curve" is commonly known in pandemic research, and has been mentioned a lot in media lately:
We can see that if we're able to slow down how quickly the virus is transmitted from person to person sufficiently, the hospital capacity will not collapse.
We are able to stop the transfer of the virus – just like the picture of matchsticks you might have seen in social media lately, and that we've reconstructed here. If we stay at home and avoid contact with others, the virus cannot travel.
Let us see what happens in Dottytown if fewer of the inhabitants are moving around:
Those who aren't infected might still catch the virus later. But if we're able to delay the spread, we achieve three things:
- The health system can save more people – both those with Covid-19, and others needing intensive care
- More time for developing a vaccine and testing medicines, so that more people can avoid getting seriously ill
- Important institutions can be kept afloat; the paramedic won't be infected while buying food
While you're staying indoors, you could experiment a little with the controllers below, and see what it takes for Dottytown to keep its virus in check.
The common effort we're now doing together is maybe one of the most important things we're doing since World War II. The way you can contribute, is by doing two things:
- Don't catch the virus yet
- Don't pass the virus on yet
You do this by being in contact with fewer people – both directly, and through things they've been in contact with – and by being very thorough with hygiene and washing your hands.