In a news conference on Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control warned the public that the coronavirus outbreak on American soil is inevitable.
“We are asking the American public to prepare for the expectation that this might be bad,” said CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases Director Dr. Nancy Messonnier, as reported by the New York Times.
“It’s not so much of a question of if this will happen in this country anymore but a question of when this will happen,” Messonnier added. “Ultimately, we expect we will see community spread in this country.”
There are now 53 confirmed coronavirus cases in the United States. Of those cases, 36 involved individuals who were repatriated from the Diamond Princess cruise ship docked in Japan, and another three were repatriated from China. Nineteen cases were originally confirmed in the U.S.
Messonnier advised Americans to begin planning for a “significant disruption” in their daily lives.
She advised schools to begin planning for student separation, involving smaller groups of children, or internet-based schooling. Similarly, she advised workplaces to begin the same planning.
“For adults, businesses can replace in-person meetings with video or telephone conferences and increase teleworking options,” Messonnier explained.
Department of Human Health and Services Secretary Alex M. Azar described the outbreak as “an unprecedented, potentially severe health challenge globally.”
“We cannot hermetically seal off the United States to a virus,” Azar added. “And we need to be realistic about that.”
The Trump administration has made an emergency $2.5 billion request to Congress for funds that will be used to prepare hospitals for a significant coronavirus outbreak in the U.S., as well as escalating vaccine development.
More than 80,000 people have been infected with coronavirus worldwide, and more than 2,600 people have died.