Henry Mayo emergency room doctor explains ‘flattening the coronavirus curve’

Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital.
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After Mayor Cameron Smyth stated that the community’s goal should be to “flatten the curve” of the coronavirus, a Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital emergency room doctor explained the concept Monday.

“It means decreasing the overall numbers of patients being sick in a certain time frame,” said Dr. Bud Lawrence, medical director for Henry Mayo’s emergency room department. “We’re spreading that time out.”

Lawrence said Monday coronavirus was present in the Santa Clarita Valley, and that people will be getting sick from the virus.

“The reality though, is that a majority of patients will have a fairly mild course of illness, and a very small subset of patients will get very sick from this virus,” said Lawrence. “And that small subset of patients can become a very big number if you try to herd everyone through a small doorway at the same time.”

Lawrence explained that the “epidemic curve” is the total amount of people that are getting sick over a certain amount of time. If there’s a spike in the number of people who get sick in a short period of time, there won’t be enough hospital beds or staff to care for all those patients at the same time.

“In Italy for example, many people became infected with this virus in a very short amount of time,” said Lawrence. “And what ends up happening, with so many sick people at the same time, it tends to overwhelm the health care system.”

Lawrence gave the hypothetical that if 100 people were going to get sick on Tuesday, that hypothetically could overload the local health care system.

“But if 100 people get sick over the course of six months, we can handle that, everything is going to be OK,” said Lawrence on Monday.

Lawrence said that “social distancing” is key to this effort of flattening the curve, such as closing schools, businesses and other places of gathering for large groups of people.

“By doing that, we’re decreasing interpersonal interaction so that there’s likely that the virus is being transmitted from person to person,” said Lawrence.

The first step people should take if they think they believe themselves to be infected, Lawrence said, is to get to their primary care physician.

“Admittedly, they’ve been having trouble getting test kits,” said Lawrence. “But they may be able to test you if you meet the CDC criteria for testing.”

For more information on the various CDC parameters for being tested visit https://www.henrymayo.com/.

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