Self-Quarantine, Social Distancing, and Flattening the Curve OH MY: Part 3

This post was written by Nikta Rezakahn Khajeh, third year medical student at Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine.

What Does Flattening the Curve Mean? 

Self-Quarantine and Social Distancing are both done in an attempt to “Flatten The Curve.” 

These curves above represent two scenarios. The red curve represents the number of people with coronavirus at a given time without protective measures in place (ex. Social distancing, hand washing, self-quarantine) and the blue curve represents the number of people with coronavirus with protective measures in place (ex. Social distancing, hand washing, self-quarantine). 

The red curve peaks above the green line which signifies our “Health Care System Capacity.” Health Care System Capacity is our hospital’s ability to take care of sick people. This includes its resources, number of beds, ventilators, medical workers, PPE, medications, and tests available.

If everyone does not practice social distancing, we will have more sick people than our hospitals have room for and doctors can take care of at a given time. By social distancing and self-quarantining, we will help reduce the number of people infected with coronavirus at a given time, making the curve look more like the blue one. The blue curve stays underneath the green line at all times. This means by staying home and limiting physical contact with people, we can all help make sure everyone who gets sick gets the right care they need from our health system. 

The virus spreads very quickly, and each person with coronavirus will infect on average ~406 people in one month. By practicing social distancing, and limiting social exposure by 50%, we can reduce that number to ~15 people. 


  • Most people who have coronavirus do not show symptoms and can spread the disease to others without realizing it. 
  • Self-Quarantine is choosing to stay home, cancel events and remove physical contact with others for 14 days to prevent the unintentional spread of coronavirus. 
  • People who have come in contact with anyone outside their household who’s health status is unknown should self-quarantine for 14 days.  
  • Social Distancing should be done by everyone and includes maintaining 6 feet of distance between people. 
  • Flattening the Curve refers to helping reduce the burden on the health care system with the number of coronavirus cases. We can flatten the curve by practicing social distancing and self-quarantine when appropriate. 

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