Coronavirus spread in US not a matter of if, but when, CDC warns

Health officials say now is the time to prepare.

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Americans should begin preparing for the possibility of a coronavirus outbreak in the US, according to a warning from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. While the immediate threat to the general public is still low, federal health officials said the coronavirus is likely to expand its footprint in the US.

"We expect we will see community spread in this country," said Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, during a press briefing Tuesday. "It's more of a question of exactly when this will happen."

The CDC also outlined steps that cities, business and schools may need to take if the virus becomes a pandemic. 

"We are asking the American public to work with us to prepare for the expectation that this is going to be bad," said Messonnier. "Now is the time for businesses, hospitals, communities, schools and everyday people to begin preparing as well."

The coronavirus has now infected more than 80,000 people and claimed over 2,700 lives, with signs of a slowdown in China, but outbreaks of the disease have occurred in Italy, South Korea and Japan. In the US, there have been 53 confirmed total cases, most coming from a Diamond Princess cruise ship. 

The World Health Organization on Monday said the sudden increase in new coronavirus cases is "very concerning," but it doesn't yet consider the outbreak to be a pandemic

On Monday, President Donald Trump tweeted that the coronavirus is "very much under control in the USA," adding that the CDC and WHO have been "working hard and very smart."

Originally published Feb. 25, 10:21 a.m. PT.
Update, 10:58 a.m. PT: Adds more background and information from the CDC.

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