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The COVID-19 Curve in Canada

For a few months now, citizens of Canada and the world have been hearing a term called “flattening the curve” from news sites, health care providers, the WHO, the CDC and more. 

What does it mean to flatten the curve and what is its purpose?

When dealing with any kind of diseases, scientists—more specifically, epidemiologists—will project the growth of the disease on a graph. In the case of COVID-19, they predicted a parabolic shape with two options: 

Image courtesy of SAM WHITNEY; CDC.

  1. Option 1: The red graph - there are many cases that grow quickly but end quickly. It overwhelms the health care systems put in place because of the amount of space and equipment needed at once.

  2. Option 2: The blue graph - there are the same amount of cases spread out over more time. The health care system, while stressed, is not overwhelmed. 

Option 2 represents the “flattened curve”: the final goal. Before finding a cure for everyone, the next best thing is to have as many people recover as possible, which is why having enough space and equipment to help sick people is essential. This is the reason why staying at home, social distancing, closure of public spaces and wearing masks were, and continue to be, emphasized.

How is Canada doing?

An article by MacLean’s written by Patricia Treble (who has been writing about COVID-19 pretty much since it started) helps analyse recent Canadian graphs and statistics in a way that is easy to understand. We recommend visiting the article to interact with the graphs.

Graph courtesy of Patrica Treble and Lauren Cattermole; MacLean's.

The red graph shows the number of new cases in Canada since the 100 cases mark in March. It shows a promising and steady decline.

Graph courtesy of Patrica Treble and Lauren Cattermole; MacLean's.

This colourful graph shows the number of new cases per million people per week, which also shows good progress.

Dr. Theresa Tam, the Chief Public Health Officer of Canada, states that Canada did a better job of flattening the curve compared to the United States, Italy and the United Kingdom but not South Korea and Japan.

Despite the declining numbers, Treble warns, “Look at the trend lines. Things are getting better in Canada, of that there is no doubt. But don’t assume the virus is gone and everyone can return to their ‘before time’ behaviours.” It is not the time to lower our guard; the graphs will trend upwards again before fully declining. 

A second wave?

In June, it was announced that South Korea had entered its “second wave” of COVID-19, which is a surge in cases after numbers had seemingly lowered to a stable amount. Murmurs of this word have spread in Canada as well. As places in the country start to reopen, South Korea serves as a way to learn about what to look for, what to do and what not to do. 

According to the CBC, a second wave is not guaranteed. “Canada could instead see several smaller waves in the coming months or avoid a second wave altogether — especially if we keep our guard up,” writes Adam Miller, who writes about health and politics at the CBC. “Keep[ing] out guard up” means to test asymptomatic individuals and find smaller outbreaks before they become larger. It also means identifying hot spots where the virus seems particularly worse and keeping an eye on them. 

Last words

“Humans are the wildcard in all of this. We know what the risk factors are. We know what the safety measures are. Public health officers tell us every day about distancing,” writes Cynthia Carr, a Canadian epidemiologist for GlobalNews. If we want to flatten the curve and if we want to avoid a “second wave”... we may not be professionals but we can listen to them. Keep social distancing, keep wearing masks, adhere to health guideline. Be safe and well.

Resources and References:

Embensadoun, E. (2020, June 27). South Korea has entered its 2nd wave of coronavirus. What

can Canada learn? Retrieved July 14, 2020, from

Gavin, K. (2020, March 11). Flattening the Curve for COVID-19: What Does It Mean and How

Can You Help? Retrieved July 14, 2020, from

Miller, A. (2020, June 25). How Canada could avoid a 2nd wave of COVID-19. Retrieved July 14,

2020, from Patricia Treble July 24, 2. (2020, July 24). Coronavirus in Canada: These charts show how our

fight to 'flatten the curve' is going. Retrieved July 14, 2020, from

Zimmer, E. (2020, June 29). Canada has flattened the COVID-19 curve faster than other

countries: Officials. Retrieved July 14, 2020, from

Article Author: Linda Duong

Article Editor: Olivia Ye


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