In an effort to keep up with the many new phrases and their uses during the pandemic, today’s words include data-driven, flatten the curve, and in an abundance of caution.
Data-driven: As an educator, since No Child Left Behind was enacted under the Bush Administration, data-driven as come to mean using the results of standardized testing to determine if students had meant grade-level standards, or if schools were “in need of improvement.”
During the COVID pandemic, scientists introduced the concepts of data analysis to the general public to determine the specifics and scope of the pandemic. Forecasting the spread in a specific population and the characteristics of individualized traits concerning the virus have become the tantalizing daily leads of broadcasting networks. The World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control report data regularly and use this information to make decisions on infection rates, world travel restrictions, lockdowns, re-openings, and access to potential vaccines.
Flatten the Curve: Much of the efforts for mitigation of the virus result from this ongoing data analysis. Governments, businesses, and schools need to determine the pandemic’s effects and use mitigation strategies to cope. The goal has been to “flatten the curve,” promoting a sense of containment of the virus and regaining economic stability post “lockdown.” What does this mean? Basically, fewer people will become sick, needing fewer hospital beds, and the number of cases will be spread over a more extended period of time, allowing our institutions to implement measures to reduce the impact and improve outcomes for individuals and the economy. The curve will not become so high, reducing cases over time, and infections will not happen all at once.
In an abundance of caution: This used to refer to such admonitions as not staying out after midnight, wearing your seatbelt, getting a flu shot, and using a condom. Now every phrase related to protecting us from COVID is preceded with “in an abundance of caution.” What does this really mean? Is this implying that if we don’t do “XXX,” we are doomed to become infected? Or does this refer to an emotional form of manipulation that while something isn’t absolutely necessary, but it is better for us to do “XXX?”
Many of us are susceptible to these types of phrases. It is likely safer for us to do many of the recommended actions to improve our chances of remaining healthy. The shock to the emotional system of this phrase is hard for parents, businesses, and government to balance when applying to humankind’s welfare. If we do not conform to the action recommended, are we engaging in risky behaviors with uncertain consequences in this time of complete uncertainty?
With the potential for a catastrophic outcome for failing to comply “in an abundance of caution” to governmental and health agency cautions, perhaps to ensure personal tranquility, we should.