coronavirus

CDC Outlines What Closing Schools, Businesses Would Look Like in Pandemic

“We are asking the American public to work with us to prepare for the expectation that this is going to be bad,” said Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases

A woman, who declined to give her name, wears a mask, Thursday, Jan. 30, 2020 in New York. She works for a pharmaceutical company and said she wears the mask out of concern for the coronavirus. "I'd wear a mask if I were you," she said. For the first time in the U.S., the new virus from China has spread from one person to another, health officials said Thursday. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)
AP

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stepped up its call Tuesday for the public to start preparing for a possible pandemic outbreak in the U.S. of the coronavirus that’s infected more than 80,000 people killed at least 2,700 overseas in less than two months.

“We are asking the American public to work with us to prepare for the expectation that this could be bad,” a top CDC official told reporters in a conference call outlining what schools and businesses will likely need to do if the COVID-19 virus starts to spread throughout the U.S.

Schools should consider dividing students into smaller groups or close and use “internet-based teleschooling,” Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, told reporters on a conference call.

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“For adults, businesses can replace in-person meetings with video or telephone conferences and increase teleworking options,” Messonnier said.

She said local communities and cities may need to “modify, postpone or cancel mass gatherings.” Hospitals may need to triage patients differently, add more telehealth services and delay elective surgery, she said.

“Now is the time for businesses, hospitals, communities, schools and everyday people to begin preparing,” she said.

Last week, U.S. health officials started warning businesses, schools and parents to start preparing for the deadly new coronavirus that’s infected more than 80,000 and killed at least 2,700 to become a global pandemic. The localized outbreaks in places such as Italy and Iran are fueling concerns among infectious disease experts and scientists that the virus is spreading too quickly and may be past the point of containment.

Regular surgical face masks are not effective in protecting against the coronavirus. A more specialized face mask known as N95 respirators are thicker than surgical masks and are fitted to a person’s face to keep out any viral particles.

On Monday, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the World Health Organization, called the outbreaks outside of China “deeply concerning.”

“I understand this whole situation may seem overwhelming and that disruption to everyday life may be severe. But these are things that people need to start thinking about now,” Messionnier said on Tuesday. “You should think about what you would do for child care if schools or daycares closed.”

The CDC late Monday confirmed 53 cases in the U.S., a majority of which came from passengers repatriated from the Diamond Princess cruise ship that was quarantined off the coast of Japan. The data shows that 36 of the cases are attributed to the cruise ship, three patients were infected in Wuhan and later evacuated to the U.S. and the rest were largely infected while traveling overseas.

The virus, which causes the COVID-19 illness, has infected more than 79,000 people globally, and caused more than 2,600 deaths, most of them in China.

Just two cases were contracted through person-to-person contact in the U.S., the CDC said.

This story first appeared on CNBC.com. More from CNBC:

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