Context matters. It really matters when we are talking about whether or not we should all be running around like our hair is on fire, worried about contracting a deadly virus. It’s understandable people go full crown of flames when they hear Angela Merkel say, “The consensus among experts is that 60 to 70% of the of the population (of Germany) will be infect.”

Those infection rates sound terrifying. Half the people on the planet will contract the Coronavirus!!!

There is good news though, when you put the numbers into context they tell a totally different story. Dr. Deborah Birx broke down the numbers in the most recent Coronavirus Task Force press conference (video above transcript via C-Span)

AND SO I KNOW IT HAS BECOME A PLACE WHERE PEOPLE ARE LOOKING NUMBERS VERSUS WHAT IS NEEDED. IF YOU DO THESE PROJECTIONS AND GET TO THOSE PROJECTIONS LIKE IN GERMANY AND OTHERS THAT IMPLIED THAT 50% OF THE POPULATION WOULD GET INFECTED, I WANT TO BE VERY CLEAR, THE ONLY WAY THAT HAPPENS, BECAUSE THIS VIRUS REMAINS CONTINUOUSLY MOVING THROUGH POPULATIONS IN THIS CYCLE, IN THE FALL CYCLE AND ANOTHER CYCLE. THAT’S THOUGH THROUGH THREE CYCLES WITH NOTHING BEING DONE. WE ARE DEALING WITH CYCLE A RIGHT NOW, NOT ONE THAT COULD COME IN THE FALL OF 2020 OR OTHER INNOVATIONS AND NOT 2021. WE ARE PLANNING FOR THE FUTURE. AND I THINK THE NUMBERS THAT HAVE BEEN PUT OUT THERE ARE ACTUALLY VERY FRIGHTENING TO PEOPLE. BUT I CAN TELL YOU IF YOU GO BACK AND LOOK AT WUHAN AND ALL OF THESE PROVINCES AND TALK ABOUT 60,000 PEOPLE BEING INFECTED, IF YOU SAY THEY ARE ASYMPTOMATIC, 60,000 PEOPLE OUT OF 80 MILLION, THAT IS NOWHERE NEAR THE NUMBER. IT IS FRIGHTENING THE AMERICAN PEOPLE. ON A MODEL YOU RUN FULL OUT. IF YOU HAVE ZERO CONTROLS AND YOU DO NOTHING AND WE KNOW THAT EVERY AMERICAN IS DOING SOMETHING. AND SO I THINK WHAT OUR JOB RIGHT NOW IS TO CAREFULLY DETAIL ON A HOSPITAL BY HOSPITAL, STATE BY STATE, COUNTY BY COUNTY WHAT THE INFRASTRUCTURE NEEDS ARE BOTH FROM THE STOCKPILE AND GENEROSITY OF THE AMERICAN.

That terrifying 50-60% figure doesn’t seem so frightening when you realize it assumes no preventative measures (read no social distancing, no increased personal hygiene, no sheltering in place) and three cycles (spring and fall of 2020 and again in spring of 2021) of infection.

Maybe we should pull out the fire extinguisher and douse our heads. Instead of fearing the worst, how about we each do whatever we can to ensure the best possible outcome.