We are preparing for the battle at the top of the mountain.

– Governor Andrew Cuomo (NY), March 31, 2020

The “mountain” Governor Cuomo had in mind was a statistical curve showing the distribution of COVID-19 cases – coming all at once or spread out over time. A very steep curve would hit the health care system like a tsunami, said ER management consultant Eric Holdeman (mrsc.org, March 24). President Trump questioned whether “mountain” was too tall a term.

You look at most places where that – you can call it the bump, you can call it the hill, you can call it the mountain, you can call it whatever you want – it’s very flat. (April 6)

At the same press briefing, President Trump saw “light at the end of the tunnel,” suggesting there could be rapid progress through the bump/hill/mountain. A couple of weeks earlier, epidemiologist Michael Mina was also thinking in terms of a tunnel: “We are flying blind through this tunnel at the moment, and we don’t know where we are in the epidemic curve” (LA Times, March 24).

Dr. Carlos del Rio of Emory University, a specialist in global health issues, cautioned there is still a considerable way to go back down after reaching the peak of Everest (CNN, April 8). Further imagery on “getting from here to there”:

This may be a marathon, not a sprint . – Tyler Falk (National Public Radio, March 6)

It’s not time to take your foot off the accelerator. – Dr. Anthony Fauci (White House COVID-19 Task Force, March 31)

The only regret we will have is if people cut the parachute before we land. – Gov. Gavin Newsom (CA) (March 31)

Looking ahead to the other side of the mountain, Governor Cuomo anticipated a program of antibody testing: “That is going to be the bridge from where we are today to the new economy” (April 8). A week later, he added:

We are bridge builders. That’s what we do. Sometimes literally, sometimes symbolically, sometimes metaphorically. (April 15)

Image: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

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