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Episode 1: Flattening the Curve

Adrian Florez


When the novel coronavirus made its way to American shores, it landed right here in the Pacific Northwest. Now, the Seattle area is the epicenter of America’s COVID-19 outbreak. 

In the first episode of Transmission, a podcast about life in the heart of an epidemic, we hear from a few of the hardy souls still out and about in downtown Seattle. 

Then, we dig into a concept that’s starting to get more and more attention: “flattening the curve.” Professor Carl Bergstrom, an evolutionary biologist who studies emerging infectious diseases at the University of Washington, says it’s helpful to think of two scenarios in an epidemic: one where the spread is rapid, and one where public health measures slow down the growth of the outbreak. 

The result is two curves, as shown in this visualization by Bergstrom and Esther Kim

Credit Esther Kim, Carl Bergstrom / Creative Commons
Creative Commons

Bergstrom explains what life might look like under each of those scenarios, and revisits a “natural experiment” from a hundred years ago that paints a vivid picture of each. 

Then, we check in with KNKX youth and education reporter Ashley Gross on the dramatic announcement this week that all K-12 schools in Pierce, King and Snohomish counties will be closed for about six weeks. Ashley explains what that means for families, including her own. 

And we want to hear from you. How has the COVID-19 epidemic affected your life? Are you in quarantine or isolation? Getting creative about how to keep your kids busy when they’re home from school? Let us know by recording yourself on a voice memo app on your phone, and emailing it to us at

Listen on Apple, Spotify, Google, Stitcherand NPR One.

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Gabriel Spitzer is a former KNKX reporter, producer and host who covered science and health and worked on the show Sound Effect.