(CBS13/CNN) — Officials at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have warned that it’s not a question of if, but when the novel coronavirus will spread in the United States — and communities are urged to prepare for the virus that has already killed thousands and sickened 10s of thousands more worldwide.

How could the possible spread of coronavirus change our daily lives? Schools, businesses, hospitals and first responders could all be impacted, according to the CDC.

“We expect we will see community spread in this country,” Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said during a press briefing Tuesday.

“We are asking the American public to work with us to prepare in the expectation that this could be bad.”

On Thursday, California Gov. Gavin Newsom held a press conference to address how a patient in Sacramento could be the first person to have contracted the virus in an unknown way – called a “community spread” of the disease.

“We have been in constant contact with federal agencies. We have history and expertise in this space. We are not overreacting, nor are we under-reacting,” Gov. Newsom said.

The CDC has been referring to guidance on how to deal with flu pandemics, in a document called “Community Mitigation Guidelines to Prevent Pandemic Influenza United States 2017.” It’s the “blueprint” for community interventions, and the agency is adjusting its recommendations to the specific circumstances of the coronavirus outbreak, officials said.

The document draws from the findings of nearly 200 journal articles written between 1990 and 2016, and it includes a summary of lessons learned from the response to the 2009 H1N1 pandemic, which killed hundreds of thousands globally.

“The trajectory of what we’re looking at over the weeks and months ahead is very uncertain, but many of the steps that we have taken over the past 15 years to prepare for pandemic influenza and our experience going through the 2009 H1N1 pandemic of influenza remind us of the kinds of steps that our health care system, our businesses, our communities and schools may need to take,” Dr. Anne Schuchat, CDC’s principal deputy director, said during a press conference at the White House on Wednesday.

“It’s the perfect time for businesses, health care systems, universities and schools to look at their pandemic preparedness plans, dust them off and make sure that they’re ready.”

Some schools and social events could shut down

Widespread transmission of the coronavirus could impact schools, child care centers, colleges and group events, such as concerts, festivals, and sporting events, according to the CDC’s 2017 document.

For instance, the document notes that “social distancing measures” for schools, workplaces and gatherings “can reduce virus transmission by decreasing the frequency and duration of social contact among persons of all ages.”

In schools, that could involve dividing classes into smaller groups of students and rearranging desks so students are spaced at least 3 feet from each other in a classroom, according to the document. That is, if the school remains open.

CDC might recommend the use of coordinated school closures during severe pandemics. More than 100 schools closed in 2009 in response to the H1N1 flu pandemic.

Closing or canceling schools in response to public health concerns are decisions that districts typically have to grapple with and are already experienced in making.

“Even in my own state of Maine, schools have in recent weeks and months had to close for influenza. During the H1N1 crisis many years ago, schools were also closed then,” recalled Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention and a member of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials.

For the novel coronavirus, “one of the questions that is scientifically out there that will govern or drive how school closures are calculated is to what extent children themselves carry or transmit this virus,” Shah said. “Scientifically we need to have a better understanding of to what extent children are carriers or transmitters of the virus — the point of that is, it’s premature right now based on the science to make uniform claims about what school closures may look like.”

Messonnier said on Tuesday that she talked to her family and told them, while they are not at risk right now, they should have a plan in case their lives are significantly impacted. She said she even called the children’s school district to find out what would happen if schools needed to close.

“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.

You might be urged to work from home

The CDC has posted guidance on its website to help businesses and employers make decisions on work-from-home policies or flexible sick leave if there is significant spread of the coronavirus across the country.

Such guidance also includes how to respond if an employee gets sick.

The 2017 document noted that “social distancing measures that reduce face-to-face contact in workplaces might include offering telework and remote meeting options. Flexible sick leave policies should be implemented to encourage workers to stay home if needed.”

Also according to the document, “CDC recommends environmental surface cleaning measures in all settings, including homes, schools, and workplaces, to remove influenza viruses from frequently touched surfaces and objects.”

Yet overall, “what community spread looks like in the United States will vary greatly community by community. It might vary by time, it might vary by place,” Shah said.

“Although we believe, according to the US CDC, that community spread is likely in the United States, the magnitude of that possibility as well as how it actually plays out, that will vary greatly between Washington state, Florida, Maine and any other state,” he said, adding because of that, “there will not be a one-size-fits-all approach here.”

First responders may have to act

With the spread of disease, health care systems could become taxed with high rates of hospitalizations and deaths — and it could impact other critical infrastructure, too, such as law enforcement, emergency medical services and the transportation industry, according to the CDC.

Many state health departments are already in talks with emergency medical technicians, paramedics, firefighters and other first responders to plan how to handle sick patients while remaining healthy themselves in case the virus spreads through the community. Currently, there is no vaccine to protect against the coronavirus and no medications have been approved, yet, to treat it.

“What this looks like, again, will vary greatly community by community, city by city, state by state,” Shah said.

The CDC has produced more than 23 guidance documents on infection control, hospital preparedness, personal protective equipment supplies and clinical evaluation and management to help first responders and health systems prepare for the possible spread of the disease.

Those preparations include making sure enough supplies are available for response efforts.

For instance, Shah said his colleagues at the CDC have already taken an inventory of their personal protective equipment — such as gowns, masks and respirators — and have put in an order for additional supplies, as have many other state health departments.

“We are anticipating what potential needs the health care system in Maine, and New England as a whole, may have for those supplies and we’re trying to think as many steps in advance as we can,” he said.

A call to stay informed

While federal, state and local health departments are staying on top of preparation efforts, Shah has several suggestions on how average Americans can get prepared, too.

“I’m recommending a few things. The first is to urge everyone to keep themselves and their families as healthy as possible. Exercise, eat a good diet, get a lot of sleep, wash your hands, do everything you can to stay healthy right now. The other thing we’re recommending is that folks stay informed,” Shah said.

“We really want to urge everyone to avoid dubious sources of information and stick with trusted sources like their state health departments or the US CDC,” he said. “We’re in a situation where fear and misinformation can spread more quickly than this virus.”

Shah also suggests staying up to date on the CDC’s coronavirus travel warnings and alerts. As of Wednesday, the agency recommends travelers avoid all nonessential trips to mainland China and South Korea.

“These are really concrete things that everybody can start doing today, so that if we get into a scenario where the situation becomes more concerning nationwide, everyone is ready, not just health departments,” Shah said.

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Comments (37)
  1. KR Rayberry says:

    Cool! Another “what could happen’ stories.

    People really should be able to sue the news media. They might be a little more careful with their stories.

    1. Craig says:

      Based on known death rates, ordinary flue is much more of a problem than this. Silly story.

      1. Hank Sheller says:

        But the true death rate is NOT known, that’s a big part of the problem. The data from China cannot be trusted.

        If this is just another seasonal flu, then why are governments around the world taking such draconian and disproportionate measures to prevent it’s spread?

        Because the true nature of the virus is still not known, or is undisclosed:
        • How easily transmissible it is
        • How long it can live on surfaces
        • Incubation period
        • Likelihood of transmission by people who are asymptomatic
        • Possibility of re-infection; and of course
        • True number of cases & deaths (i.e. true fatality rate — nobody takes China’s data at face value except the corrupt WHO)

        Also, we now know that the virus did not originate in the Wuhan food market, but in the Level 4 Biological laboratory not far away. This raises more legitimate questions about whether it is a man-made virus, and whether it escaped or was released intentionally.

        Due to these uncertainties, the known deceptive nature of politicians and media, as well as the disproportionate responses by some governments, panic buying and quarantines are occurring wherever there are outbreaks. You have a window of opportunity to stock up on storeable food and daily necessities. Hope is not a strategy, and it’s better to have supplies and not need them than to need them and not have them.

  2. Dooshh Bagge says:

    Yes, Because some people don’t know everything like you do. Some even need to be informed of possible scenarios and additional information, when major events are unfolding, crazy right?! You are a perfect example of why they need to do away with comment sections.

    1. KR Rayberry says:

      The people who need to know already know and have already trained for scenarios just like this. Stories such as this serves only to intensify the hype that all the other media is throwing around, nothing more. The average person just needs to use some common sense…wash hands, eat healthy, keep yourself clean, etc These things may not keep you from getting the virus, but it will help your immune system in dealing with it once you have it.

      This virus is similar to a cold/flu, treat it like it.

    2. Rob says:


    3. you have an appropriate username says:

      Yes panic, scurry around, run in circles with your arms in the air drive stock markets into the ground…. if there is a reason comment sections should be eliminated! You are dangerously stupid and obviously don;t think two seconds about cause and effect or the foolishness you perpetuate – ya your answer to everything is make sure the other guy can’t offer his opinion

  3. The subversive left-wing media just keeps embellishing the “facts” in their “Chicken Little” story.

  4. Reedasaurus says:

    Too bad we depend on China for so many everyday needs, including 100% of our antibiotics.

    Maybe the lesson here is that outsourcing all our manufacturing to China isn’t such a great idea afterall?

  5. canabera says:

    Deaths will be rampant in facilities for the elderly – independent living, assisted living, nursing homes. Sadly, one case is all it will take.

  6. Spud Mack says:

    California should walled off. There are too many nasty people living there.

  7. tedmartini says:

    See this on Drudge? For more whacked California news, try https://PressCalifornia.com

    1. Thanks for the shout out. We aim to please, California style.

      1. StopMooching says:

        ya what hacks – just like whatfingee – if your site was worth anything people would fine it organically without you dopes infecting every thread with your blatant advertisements – what did InsurancePanda have a layoff?

  8. Sidney says:

    SFO’s homeless will be great vectors for the virus…thanks to the city leaders’ stupid policies.

  9. Lawrence Cram says:

    The coronavirus is less contagious than the flu. The major difference between it and the seasonal flu is that there is as yet no vaccine for coronavirus. As many as 56,000 people die from the flu in the U.S. each year; the coronavirus won’t be nearly as deadly. Be smart about staying away from people with symptoms, washing your hands regularly, disinfecting surfaces, and avoiding crowds. This isn’t the end of the world!

  10. Jim Wolfson says:

    Listening to chirpy little girls with odd high-school inflections is truly unpleasant after about 8 seconds. Had to stop. Make it stop!

    Whatever happened to serious reporters with deep knowledge of the subject being reported?

  11. Hal Jordan says:

    How does the word “novel” apply to coronavirus? Is there another type of coronavirus that we should know about, that is not the “novel” variety?

    1. Jim Wolfson says:

      Hal, apparently that is the case; there is a “family” of coronavirus strains as I recall from my reading.

    2. Jim Wolfson says:

      I’m sure the poopushers are back in their bathhouse labs, working on the next deadly scourge upon mankind.

  12. Brian McGrogan says:

    This looks less like airbourne influenza and more like airbourne HIV, based on the fact that people are testing positive weeks after treatment.

  13. Larry Bean says:

    The Coronavirus could wipe out a segment of folks who live in San Francisco, the AIDs population. We could lose our most creative people.

  14. Nan Trang Dhu says:

    Oh! So HIV positive people are more creative?

    1. Kitty says:

      Any man’s death diminishes me,
      Because I am involved in mankind

      1. reality says:

        more accurately you have no self worth

  15. Hank O'Hare says:

    It’s airborne, contagious, people spread it before they have symptoms, it got all over China in lass than a month.

    Yeah, nothing to see here.

    It’s mild in young people but gets harder over 60 years old with a Case Fatality Rate at least 5%. Take it seriously. The sooner the better.

  16. Hank O'Hare says:

    CoVID-19 i(R0 ~4) is at least as contagious as the flu (R0 ~2-3) and is more deadly, especially in older people. Taking it too seriously too soon is a better mistake than too little too late. Cheaper and fewer corpses that way.

    You’re right about washing hands and avoiding crowds and it not being the end of the world. Delete the other stuff and your post will be perfect.

  17. CharleyC says:

    If the virus is going to spread, it will do the worst damage in third world countries, like CA. In LA, where plague and other diseases that haven’t been seen in first world countries in 100 years are rampant, you can expect to see the Coronavirus take lives.
    I have not seen a profile of the people who have died from the virus but I bet that most had compromised immune systems, poor nutrition or poor sanitation contributing to the problem.

    The president should quarantine CA as soon as possible to prevent the spread of the virus.

  18. Jim Hyland says:

    Corona is one of many plagues that will begin to surface. We are already witnessing world division, violence, moral depravity and shaming everywhere. We are at the end of days, God’s prolonged spiritual judgment has begun. To learn more, check E Bible Fellowship.

  19. Danny J says:

    The media LOVES to create crisis. Let’s all panic! Remove your money from the bank! Buy gold! Head to the hills! This is the “new norm” … SMH

  20. Perry Delqua says:

    I’m gonna buy a motorbike and a crossbow. Jut in case. Maybe a Samurai sword for the wife.

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