Merkel warns German parliament: As much as 60-70% of the population could contract coronavirus at some point

“At some point” is carrying a lot of weight in that headline. Bigggggggggg difference between a scenario where that’s spread out over a few years, giving science time to develop vaccines and antiviral treatments, and a scenario where it happens soon-ish and all at once, in which case hospitals won’t remotely be able to cope with the crush.

If her math is right and we assume a death rate of one percent, more than 500,000 people would die in Germany alone.

The German newspaper reported that when Merkel dropped the statistic in the parliamentary meeting, the room fell silent

Merkel went on to tell lawmakers that more events and large gatherings could be canceled, depending on the severity of the outbreak.

Postponing parliamentary proceedings is also a possibility, Merkel said.

According to Bild, Merkel came short of calling for any swift and severe measures and was not more specific but laid out the possibilities facing the nation amid the outbreak.

I feel like there’s a mild disconnect between “two-thirds of the population might get this highly contagious deadly disease” and “Merkel came short of calling for any swift and measures.” There are countries that have managed already to reverse the exponential growth of the disease, and not just the ChiComs with their quarantine-everyone approach. There’s a simple formula, albeit one that’s been difficult to implement here thanks to the clusterfark at the CDC:

The magic formula from South Korea, Hong Kong and Singapore:

Social distancing on a massive scale, quarantining infected areas, canceling big events and closing schools and offices to slow down the spread.

Intensive testing for all who want it, and surveillance and monitoring of the infected to try to limit outbreaks.

Emergency efforts to ensure people don’t avoid care over cost concerns, because everyone is at greater risk of infection if the uninsured and underinsured avoid treatment.

South Korea went from more than 800 new cases of COVID-19 per day eight days ago to 164 new cases yesterday, thanks to early preemptive action on things like school closings. Democracies with efficient government bureaucracies can manage this.

Which means we Americans should all start filling out end-of-life directives, I guess.

If you’re wondering what the annual numbers look like here in the U.S. for the flu by comparison, this CDC page places the high end of the range at 45 million infected, 800,000 hospitalized, and 61,000 dead. That’s a little less than 14 percent of the population infected and a hospitalization rate of a bit less than two percent of infected patients. Per Chinese data, around 15 percent of coronavirus patients require hospitalization. Even if we assume the low end of the CDC’s range of seasonal flu infections (9.3 million) as a baseline for what we might expect from coronavirus, a hospitalization rate of 15 percent would send 1.3 million people to the hospital. There are only about a million total hospital beds in the U.S., and only a bit more than 300,000 of those are available at any given time.

So, yeah.

Here’s Mike Pence ticking off one of the boxes in Asia’s magic formula, ensuring that coronavirus tests won’t cost anything to the insured. One weird quirk about Germany: The death rate there from COVID-19 is surprisingly low, with just two dead among 1,500 cases (although virtually all of those cases are still “active.”) Why? A German virologist claims it’s due to two things, early detection of the threat and availability of testing as far back as January through Germany’s insurance program. But note too: “[M]any of those who’ve been infected have been in younger age groups – people returning from holidays and working age people.” Germans may have simply lucked out thus far on which age demographic has been principally victimized. That’ll change.