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City Manager: What “flatten the curve” means & how Juneau can do it

March 12, 2020 – News

For very good reason, “Flatten the Curve” is trending, so let’s explain it and understand what it means to Juneau and local decision-making. Confirmed cases of coronavirus disease, or COVID-19, will inevitably show up in Juneau soon and how well we follow public health guidance now will affect how fast the infection spreads and who gets it. Our goal must be to protect our vulnerable populations – people over 60, or people of any age with a compromised immune system or chronic health condition, like heart and lung disease, and diabetes.

When we say “flatten the curve,” we’re talking about avoiding a huge spike of infections in a short period of time and, instead, stretching – or flattening – the number of infections over a longer time period so we don’t overwhelm Juneau’s healthcare system. It means that healthy, non-vulnerable population slowly get the virus and local immunity is broadened. It means that we avoid a crisis at the hospital because we slow the transmission and prevent too many people getting ill at the same time. “Flatten the curve” means that we are trying to slow and limit the spread to the vulnerable so that – to be brutally honest – fewer vulnerable people get severely ill and/or die. It’s the vulnerable populations that are in danger of high mortality rates. State of Alaska’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Anne Zink advised on Wednesday that people over 80 have a staggering risk of mortality of one in five.

We are all in this together and our community response should be disciplined, methodical, and timely. Just because the internet and information move at the speed of light doesn’t mean our response should too. As appropriate, the community response will escalate when it will strategically flatten the curve and reduce infection and the effects of infection in the community.

If we all follow the best public health guidance, we will get the best outcome. Even if you feel strong and healthy, it is important to protect our most vulnerable from the virus. Now is the time to focus on good hygiene and social distancing to protect those over 60 and others in the vulnerable category:

For the General Public

  • Stay home if you are sick with a respiratory illness. If you develop a fever, stay home for at least 24 hours after the fever subsides.
  • Stay at least 6 feet away from anyone who is coughing, sneezing, or feeling feverish.
  • Avoid large gatherings and crowded places as much as possible.
  • Avoid shaking hands and hugging as much as possible.
  • If you live in a rural area, consider limiting non-essential travel to protect your community.

For High-Risk Groups

  • This group includes persons aged 60 years and over, and persons with underlying medical conditions such as heart disease, lung disease, diabetes, or other immune compromising illnesses.
  • When you go out in public, try to maintain at least 6 feet distance from people – especially from people who are sick.
  • Avoid crowds as much as possible, especially large gatherings.
  • Avoid cruise travel and non-essential air travel.

For more information on the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), go to CBJ’s COVID-19 webpage at juneau.org/covid-19.

For more information, contact City Manager Rorie Watt at 586-5240 or Rorie.Watt@juneau.org.