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Kennewick doctor explains the push for social distancing, 'flattening the curve'

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KENNEWICK, Wash. -- As leaders continue shutting things to slow down the pandemic, you might be wondering why it's so important not to go out.

This graphic was created from data collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to show why social distancing is so important.

The first yellow ridge shows what daily outbreak numbers could look like if folks do nothing to slow the spread.

The second one in purple shows a more gradual increase, with the dotted blue line being the current capacity of our healthcare system.

It's called 'flattening the curve', describing the way the purple ridge looks compared to the yellow one.

Brian Lawenda, M.D. with the Northwest Cancer Clinic in Kennewick works with immunocompromised populations daily.

He says social distancing is just as much about helping healthcare workers as it is protecting your family.

"Being in close proximity to people, we don't know if they're infected or not," he says. "Social distancing is the most effective method that we have currently for reducing the infected rate and slowing down the admissions to hospitals."

Dr. Lawenda says reducing the burden on our healthcare system is important so we can avoid situations like in Wuhan, China and parts of Italy where there were reports of lines of people waiting their turn on an ambulance.

"What we don't want is for many infected people to all come in to the Emergency Rooms, Primary care physician offices and Urgent Cares at one time and ultimately overwhelm the ICUs."

He says social distancing ensures all patients get help when they need it, whereas an overwhelmed system won't have enough beds, enough ventilators, enough personnel.

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"Basically, slowing down the infection will decrease the effects felt downstream on our healthcare system," Lawenda says.

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