Here’s an analogy. Imagine a plow spreading out a big pile of snow in the street. If it keeps the blade higher, the pile will be taller and won’t spread out very far. If it lowers the blade to a few inches off the ground, the snow will be more manageable but also spread out much farther. The better it does the job – the thinner it spreads the snow — the longer it will take.

If people stick with measures to contain the virus, death rates will eventually trickle down to zero, but only after almost everyone has been infected, assuming they are then immune. If we’re lucky, we’ll slow things down enough to never truly overwhelm the hospitals, and if we’re really lucky we’ll slow things down long enough to benefit from a vaccine or a treatment.

But short of a miracle, expect the flattened curve to be very lopsided: a quick rise at the beginning, and a slow steady flow of bad news for many months. There’s no symmetry in sight.