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Stick Together By Staying Apart: Use the CDC's "Pandemic Intervals Framework" to explain the value and context of social distancing.

The "Pandemic Intervals Framework" is a roadmap that quickly shows where we are and what we're trying to do. Use it to get people on board.

Photo of Len Hennessy
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The news channels are all stuck in a paradigm where their ratings are maintained through on-air debate, not news.  They have forgotten that at times like this, people actually need “news,” not political debate that tries to impact a narrative. 

Being frustrated by this, on March 14, I web searched specifically for raw data from government sources (or credible medical sources) on the outbreak and the virus, effects, symptoms, etc.  In the process, I ran across the Pandemic Intervals Framework (PIF) on the Center for Disease Control (CDC) website (see attachment).

Here’s the link:

Moment of Realization:

I found the PIF chart with the explanation of the intervals and the depiction of the graph and the acceleration spike. 

I also found a write up on COVID-19 that we were in Interval (stage) 3 and attempting to limit the impact of the acceleration spike (i.e., stage 4).  For me, it all made sense as to why we needed to do these things. Everything that Dr. Fouci has been talking about fell into place.  The concept of ‘making the spike into a hump’ suddenly had meaning, and I finally understood the overall logic of social distancing beyond simply trying to avoid people who might get me sick.

Main Point:

People respond to pictures better than a talking head on TV who may have either a political agenda or anxiety or frustration in their voice, etc.  

Since Saturday, I’ve explained that 6-interval chart to several people and I believe it helps them understand the context better.  

I think if the news and elected leaders would simply show that chart on TV, point to where we are on it why, and then keep coming back to it, we might get more people to understand the context of why it is so critical for everyone to do their part at the local level.

Right now, the news ONLY states how many cases there are, how many have died, etc.  But that number is invisible in terms of relating the context as to how serious this pandemic truly is.  As a result, I think many people aren’t taking the threat seriously because it they don’t understand the context. 

Final Note:

I did 20 years as a Naval Officer and have a research background.  I’ve been through 7 hurricanes and have been without power and water and low on gas with limited prospects.  I've also deployed twice to Iraq. 

When soldiers and sailors first join the military, they’re a bit clueless (as I was)!  But once they understand the context of why they’re doing what they’re doing (why we do things the way we do on a ship or why an entire platoon must function as a unit), they suddenly become much better soldiers and sailors.  

I believe the same principle applies now with social distancing.  People must understand the context of "doing their part" in order to have buy-in on its success.

Upload or share a link to this resource/message/source of information to share it with others.

Did this resource motivate you to change your behaviors?

  • Yes

Did you share this information with your network?

  • Yes

In what ways did you share this information?


Where are you getting information around COVID-19?

  • Local Government
  • National Government
  • News: Television
  • News: Digital
  • News: Radio
  • WHO (World Health Organization)

What information do you feel you are missing about COVID-19?

The context of why it's important to limit the spread of the virus.

What populations or personas are not currently being addressed with today’s COVID-19 information?

News services have traded critical journalism for political debate panels to gain ratings, alienating viewers in the process. 

Therefore, the people who need to be reached are the ones who have been turning off the news. 

What is your current profession?

Writer and screenplay reviewer.

In what city are you located?

Evans, GA

In what country are you located?


1 comment

Join the conversation:

Photo of Ashley Tillman

Hi Len, thank you so much for sharing! I am curious through your learning process and sharing with others what do you think the key ingredients were. Was it mainly the visuals, was it hearing it from a trusted person they knew, or something else entirely?