‘An outbreak anywhere can go anywhere’ says medical historian Howard Markel from the University of Michigan. The COVID-19 outbreak has spread to over 216 countries, areas or territories worldwide, resulting in over 10.7 million confirmed cases and over half a million deaths (WHO, 2 July 2020). With government intervention, border closures and lockdowns have become an integral part of ‘flattening the curve’ amid the pandemic. These actions have also impeded the livelihoods of people economically, socially and with means of security. Due to limited testing in many countries and no available vaccine, there is amplified stress on the need for regional collaboration to control the pandemic. Flatten is an example of an organization working to strengthen the capacity for regional efforts to make an impact in local communities.
The curve alludes to the anticipated number of new cases over a period of time. However, ‘flattening the curve’ refers to slowing down the rates of COVID-19 cases over a period of time to reduce strain on healthcare systems and infrastructure. This decreased rate of infections gives hospitals, doctors and necessary resources the time to respond to the ongoing outbreak, and researchers the time to develop treatments or vaccines. Spreading out the resources over a longer time frame ultimately allows healthcare systems to save more lives. Although to properly ‘flatten the curve’, a collective effort is necessary. This involves successful integration, cooperation and learning from other members of government and civil society to provide support through the pandemic.
Flatten uses a heat map to identify vulnerable and potential cases of individuals geographically by Forward Sortation Area (FSA) and is using their tool to focus on gathering pre-clinical self-reported data from users to be analyzed by researchers. The organization has implemented its platform in collaboration with the City of Montreal with efforts to help the city better understand how the virus is spreading locally. Montreal’s public health authority requested citizens to engage in the platform to further gauge where the highest number of cases is, interpret the reasons as to why, and build awareness if communities are not comprehending the messages effectively.
Government and medical officials understand that different regions of the provinces or within the country experience the outbreak to varying degrees, thus calling for different responses. These actions emphasize the demand for a regional response in order to be proactive in detecting and responding to outbreaks. Regionalization as such is an effective component in mobilizing and as well as coordinating the vast expertise and resources that individuals of the community and health care systems obtain to combat the pandemic. Flatten’s ability to use data and create patterns to identify which clusters of infection may have a bigger impact is significant along with the ability to show the regional and geographical relationship to incoming vulnerable and potential reports. The COVID-19 outbreak does not obey border laws and thus to defeat the pandemic, it is imperative to support coordinated actions from a regional approach.
Author: Sejal Jain