By Eliott C. McLaughlin and Steve Almasy, CNN
“We expect we will see community spread in this country,” said Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases. “It’s not so much a question of if this will happen anymore, but rather more a question of exactly when this will happen and how many people in this country will have severe illness.”
The agency tweeted Tuesday evening that Americans should think about getting ready.
“Now is the time for US businesses, hospitals, and communities to begin preparing for the possible spread of #COVID19,” it wrote, referring to the name the World Health Organization has given the novel coronavirus. “CDC continues to work with business, education & healthcare sectors, encouraging employers to be prepared.”
Messonnier said her agency wants people to understand their lives might be disrupted.
“We are asking the American public to work with us to prepare in the expectation that this could be bad,” she said.
She said CDC officials have been saying for weeks that while they hope the spread won’t be severe in the United States, they are planning as if it could be.
“The data over the last week, and the spread in other countries, has certainly raised our level of concern and raised our level of expectation” of community spread, she said.
The CDC still doesn’t know what that will look like, she added. Community spread could be reasonably mild or very severe.
Americans should also talk to employers about working online and talk to doctor’s offices about telehealth, the CDC says.
Messonnier said she talked her family and told them that while they are not at risk right now, they should plan for what to do if their lives were significanly impacted. She said she called the children’s school district about what would happen if schools need to close.
US cases up
Also Tuesday, the agency said the number of cases in the United States has risen to 57, with four more patients who were on a cruise ship.
While in India, President Donald Trump cast coronavirus as “a problem that’s going to go away,”
but experts worry a pandemic could be in the offing, given the virus’ spread in Europe and the Middle East
The CDC is employing a twofold approach, working to contain the virus while also implementing strategies to lessen the impacts on communities, Messonnier told reporters.
“We’ve also enacted the first quarantine of this scale in the US, and are supporting the State Department and (Department of Health and Human Services) in repatriating citizens from high-risk areas,” she said.
In addition, the center is tracking and isolating cases when it can, issuing travel advisories for affected countries and taking on the increasingly difficult task of preventing the introduction of new cases, most notably at points of entry into the United States, she said.
Messonnier described the containment strategies as “largely successful” and said they were geared toward “buying us more time to prepare.”
40 cases from cruise ship
The current total breaks down to 40 passengers who were aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship
that was traveling in Asia, three people repatriated from China, and 14 US cases.
Of the 14 US cases, two of them were the result of person-to-person transmission, one coming in California and the other in Illinois, health officials said.
The breakdown of US cases is eight in California, two in Illinois and one each in Massachusetts, Washington, Arizona and Wisconsin.