Officials at the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention say spread of the coronavirus in the U.S. is not a question of "if," but "when."
Dr. Nancy Messonnier, the CDC's director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases said the virus, called COVID-19, is "rapidly evolving and spreading" and that "successful containment at U.S. borders is becoming problematic."
Community spread of the virus, which began its spread in China, have been reported in Hong Kong, Iran, Italy, Japan, Singapore, Korea, Taiwan and Thailand, Messonnier said in a Tuesday press conference. The behavior of the virus spread outside of China has raised concern in the U.S.
There is currently no vaccine to prevent the virus nor medication to treat it, but Messonnier said individuals and local communities should prepare for the possibility of an outbreak by implementing methods of "non-pharmaceutical intervention," or NPIs. She warned U.S citizens and local communities to prepare for "disruption to everyday life" in the case of a pandemic.
"We are asking the American public to work with us to prepare for the expectation that this is going to be bad," she said. Messonnier recounted a conversation she had with her children over breakfast, in which she discussed how her family would prepare for an outbreak. She said she called her local school superintendent with questions about schools' plans for dismissals, closures and teleschool.
Messonnier encouraged parents to do the same and prepare for how to handle childcare services if schools begin to close. She also recommended schools divide students into smaller groups or provide teleschooling services.
Other businesses can also prepare for an escalated outbreak of the coronavirus by replacing in-person meetings with teleconferences and increasing teleworking options, Messonnier said. Employees should also contact their supervisors for more information on those policies.
Communities should also prepare to "modify, postpone or cancel large gatherings," she said