The science behind curbing the spread of COVID-19


RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — The world has changed in the past few weeks and many of us are hearing and seeing new terms and images related to coronavirus for the first time ever.

CBS 17 chief meteorologist Wes Hohenstein, who covers the science of North Carolina weather on daily basis, took some time to break down the science of social distancing, flattening the curve and even washing your hands.

The current situation in our country dealing with the spread of COVID-19 has shown some societal impacts similar to when a snowstorm or hurricane is threatening North Carolina. The grocery stores are packed, kids stay home from school and awareness is heightened everywhere, especially on social media.

The big differences are that roads aren’t going to shut down, the power will stay on and grocery store supply chains will continue to flow. This is a unique time in our state and country, one where we all must take care of ourselves and one another.

You may have done a science experiment in elementary school showing the importance of washing your hands. Hand soap or dish soap is very effective at eliminating most of the germs or viruses from your hands when you wash.


The experiment is to simply put some ground pepper on a bowl or plate of water simulating germs, dip your finger in some soap and touch that finger to the pepper on the water. When you do that, you will see the pepper rush to the sides of the plate or bowl simulating the soap eliminating or repelling the germs.

It’s this almost excessive handwashing that will help “flatten the curve,” another new term we’ve heard recently. The graph that goes along with the term shows two different scenarios in the COVID-19 fight in America.

One scenario in red shows how fast the coronavirus will spread and overwhelm our healthcare system if we don’t take the necessary precautions to slow the virus, measures such as hand washing and social distancing. 

The second scenario in blue shows how much slower the spread will be. This slower spread won’t put as much stress on the country’s infrastructure and healthcare systems.

It’s important to note that the two different scenarios, the one in red and blue have the same number of people getting infected, but just at different rates.


Finally, social distancing is another new term that will help slow the spread of COVID-19. The best way to demonstrate social distancing is to use a line of matches close together. When the first match is lit, it will spread very quickly to the next match.

This line of fire can only be stopped when one match is removed or distanced from the others. Removing that match stops the next one from catching fire and in our society, removing humans from close contact with each other will slow the spread of coronavirus.

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