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You’ve probably been hearing about “flattening the curve” a lot lately with the spread of COVID-19. But what does that mean, and how can you make a difference?

Flattening the curve means slowing the rate of spread of a contagious disease. The “curve” is the projected number of people who will contract COVID-19 over a period of time. It can take different shapes depending on the infection rate and precautions taken by both infected and uninfected people. The faster the infection curve rises, the quicker local health care systems will be overloaded. The flatter the curve, the slower the infection rate and the lighter the burden on hospitals and clinics.

There are plenty of ways you can help flatten the curve.

Take steps to protect yourself and others 

Wear a face mask or face covering

The virus can easily spread between people who are in close proximity to each other — speaking, coughing or sneezing — even if those people are not showing symptoms. Wearing a cloth face covering in public settings where social distancing isn't practical can help slow the spread. Learn more.

remain at home

Practice social distancing

Social distancing is another phrase thrown around a lot these days. It means avoiding close contact to people, staying 6 feet away from others as much as possible. Social distancing will help slow the spread of the virus in the community and is especially important for protecting people who are at higher risk of getting sick. 

Wash your hands often

Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after you've been in a public place or after blowing your nose, cough or sneeze. The CDC has great guidance on the how and why, including the science behind hand washing. If soap and water are not readily available, use a hand sanitzer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Cover all surfaces of your hands and rub them together until they feel dry.

Remain indoors as often as possible

The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to the virus. Avoid going to public places unless you need to make a run to the grocery store for supplies. If you are sick, stay home, unless you need medical care.

Avoid touching your face

Keep your hands away from your eyes, nose, and mouth. Touching the mucous membranes on your face with your dirty hands allows germs to enter the body.

cover your mouth

Sneeze or cough into a tissue or your elbow

Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. (If you don't have a tissue, cough or sneeze into the inside of your elbow.) Throw away your tissues in the trash. Immedaitely wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds.  

Disinfect items and surfaces you use frequently

Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily. This includes tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets and sinks. Use detergent or soap and water prior to disinfection.


By flattening the curve, we protect the most vulnerable in our community, including the elderly and those with underlying health conditions, as well as lessening the burden on the doctors, nurses and essential staff who are already on the front lines.

It will take some patience and working together to make it happen, but flattening the curve is possible.

You got this, Bobcats!



Did you know...

Maurice Hilleman in a lab coat looks into a microscope.

Montana State University alumnus Maurice Hilleman is credited with saving millions of lives through his work in vaccine development.

Born in 1919 in Miles City, he was raised on the family farm and was on track to start a career at the local J.C. Penney store when a scholarship brought him to MSU. He graduated at the top of his class in 1941 and went on to the University of Chicago and eventually to the laboratories of the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research and Merck Pharmaceutical, where he was responsible for creating and producing vaccines that would shape modern health care and save millions around the world.

Learn more about Maurice Hilleman