This important line has disappeared from all COVID-19 discussion

Flatten these curves. Right? Image from Rob Hyndman

“Flatten the curve”. This mantra is pervasive in virtually every country on the planet. Everyone knows what it means. Right? But do they? There is something that has completely disappeared from the online messaging by news organizations, government bodies, and social media.

We know what we can do to flatten the curve. We can wear masks in public to prevent getting sick from other people, and we can help prevent other people from getting sick if you have it, whether you know you do or not. We can stay inside if we don’t need to go out. We can avoid crowded areas. We can stay six to ten feet apart from each other. Hey man, “we are all in this together”, so wear a mask.

But if you don’t, the government will step in and make you. The assault on free speech, the right to assemble, the right to privacy, the right to be unencumbered are all being decimated day by day. Governments are forcing people to stay in their houses, forcing them to wear masks. An utterly bizzare situation is happening where cops are bunching up, without masks, to arrest people who have bunched up without masks. People, utterly alone in the woods on trails, are being tracked and droned and ticketed and arrested. An army of Karens are being assembled to track people, record who comes in contact with whom and be removed from their homes if the government determines they should be.

Worse, the economy was shut down. We are watching as farmers throw away and destroy food as people start to go hungry. We see how supply chains are interconnected with other supply chains, services reliant upon other services, to the point where there was, in fact, no such thing as a non-crtitical job. A politcal divide has formed, and it isn’t a pretty one.

Because, as we all know, “flatten the curve” means reducing death? Right? And if you aren’t flattening the curve, you are the same as a murderer. We have completely gone off script, lost our target, fell into a pit. A dark one.


Because we lost sight of a line.

Here is a refresher course. It’s critical to understand. Look for a line.

The key thing to remember is that there is no expectation that the area under either curve is different at all. No less cases, no less deaths. They assume the same number of cases (whatever that number is for a region). Due to the statistics of comorbidities, they assume that same number of deaths also. The only reason to “flatten the curve” was so that more deaths don’t happen because there isn’t enough hospital space.

Further, that disappearing line isn’t horizontal. It changes. New York City added thousands of beds to tackle Coronavirus. China did the same thing. Sweden focused on adding to the supply without having to lock down, because the only reason the flatten the curve is to make sure hospitals have capacity.

Graph after graph compare case per country, case rates per country, death rates per country.

Every single graph like this one leaves out how many cases the country can handle.

Every single one of them leaving out the ENTIRE reason for working to flatten the curve. They compare the countries that have and don’t have travel bans. They compare countries with more or less testing. But they don’t compare these rates to the amount of available hospital beds. A simple ratio could have been made to address whether “flatten the curve” is working:

This is what is relevant. This is the entire justification for killing the economy and trampling on the rights of everyone in the country.

There are huge tables of stats of the Coronavirus by country and state. But where is the important stat? Where is the column of number of hospital beds?

Let’s look at NYC well known to be a hell hole of cases. But New York peaked out at less than 1500 active hospitalizations in a day despite having grown capacity to over 2500 beds plus another 1000 beds from the recently departed USS Comfort ship.


Elon Musk got slammed on social media for pointing this exact thing out.

his Tweet

All he was pointing out is the the economy was torn down in order to save hospital beds which NEVER filled and remained at least half empty.

Couldn’t this exact work have been done just by focusing on increasing hospital beds and moving victims from high density areas to places with additional capacity? Couldn’t focus be pointed at nursing homes and assisted living centers? Capacity was never reached. The curve was flattened and the disappearing line was pushed up without the need for extreme lockdowns and destruction of the economy.

Instead, the government, the left, the right, all opted for fascism. Screams to force people to quarantine, instead of quarantining the sick. Fascist activities like the the Defense Production Act were brought into play. The economy was shuttered kicking off the descent into a depression which will cause much more suffering for a far longer amount of time. Cops are beating people up, and everyone is yelling at each other on social media, categorizing themselves into freedom fighters and The Concerned and categorizing each other as Murderers or Karens.

All of this has to stop. Because all that ever mattered was this invisible line. If we bring back the line, we can bring back civility, our economy, and our common sense.

What to do?

  • Wear a mask.
  • Distance yourself from others
  • Avoid crowds
  • Expand testing (I should write this one 3 times), and get tested
  • Whenever someone posts a graph of cases, ask “What is the hospital bed capacity for that area?”

If YOU follow these simple things then YOU don’t have to worry about someone else not following them.



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Robert Hirsch

Author, Maker, Father, Dreamer. Robert received his Ph.D. from RPI in Mechatronics. Since then, consumer devices, renewable energy, and now blockchain.