C.D.C. Officials Warn of Coronavirus Outbreaks in the U.S.

Clusters of infection are likely in American communities, health officials said. Some lawmakers questioned whether the nation is prepared.

“This is an unprecedented, potentially severe health challenge globally,” Alex M. Azar II, the health and human services secretary, told a Senate subcommittee on Tuesday.
Credit…T.J. Kirkpatrick for The New York Times

Federal health officials starkly warned on Tuesday that the new coronavirus will almost certainly spread in the United States, and that hospitals, businesses and schools should begin making preparations.

“It’s not so much of a question of if this will happen anymore but rather more of a question of exactly when this will happen,” Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said in a news briefing.

She said that cities and towns should plan for “social distancing measures,” like dividing school classes into smaller groups of students or closing schools altogether. Meetings and conferences may have to be canceled, she said. Businesses should arrange for employees to work from home.



China 78,486 2,743 Avoid travel
South Korea 1,595 12 Avoid travel
Japan 844 3 Reconsider
Italy 453 12 Reconsider
Iran 139 19 Reconsider
Singapore 93 0
Hong Kong 91 2 Be careful
United States 60 0
Thailand 40 0
Bahrain 33 0
Taiwan 32 1
Germany 27 0
Kuwait 26 0
Australia 22 0
Malaysia 22 0
France 18 2
Vietnam 16 0
Britain 13 0
United Arab Emirates 13 0
Canada 11 0
Macau 10 0
Iraq 5 0
Oman 4 0
Philippines 3 1
Croatia 3 0
India 3 0
Austria 2 0
Finland 2 0
Israel 2 0
Russia 2 0
Sweden 2 0
Lebanon 2 0
Pakistan 2 0
Belgium 1 0
Brazil 1 0
Cambodia 1 0
Brazil 1 0
Nepal 1 0
Sri Lanka 1 0
Switzerland 1 0
Egypt 1 0
Afghanistan 1 0
Algeria 1 0
Greece 1 0
Georgia 1 0
Norway 1 0
North Macedonia 1 0
Romania 1 0

The coronavirus is not believed to currently be spreading in the United States. But C.D.C. officials warned on Tuesday that future outbreaks are almost inevitable, given the number of cases around the world.

Sixty people are infected, almost all of whom traveled from Asia. One person in California tested positive for the virus despite having no known connection to previous cases, the C.D.C. announced on Wednesday.

                                                            In Iran, a spike in coronavirus infections — including to the top health official in charge of fighting the disease — has prompted fears the contagion may spread throughout the Middle East. In Italy, one of Europe’s largest economies, officials are struggling to prevent the epidemic from paralyzing the commercial center of Milan.

Keenly aware that the virus has the potential to wreak havoc in the United States, lawmakers from both the Democratic and the Republican parties grilled Mr. Azar and other members of the administration at the Senate hearing, apparently unconvinced that the Trump administration was prepared for the outbreak that the C.D.C. is forecasting.

Senator John Kennedy, Republican of Louisiana, grew exasperated when the acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, Chad F. Wolf, could not say how many people were expected to become infected.

“I’m all for committees and task forces, but you’re the secretary,” Mr. Kennedy responded. “I think you ought to know that answer.”

The administration officials overseeing the response to a coronavirus outbreak told lawmakers that the initial funding requested by the White House — $1.25 billion in new funds and $1.25 billion taken from other programs — would most likely be just a first round.


Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, at a news briefing last month. She said on Tuesday that she had spoken to her own family about “preparing for significant disruption of our lives.”

Credit…Amanda Voisard/Reuters

Mr. Azar said that there were 30 million N95 masks, respirators best suited to guarding against viruses that typically cost less than $1 apiece, in the nation’s emergency stockpile.


                                                         Lívio Ribeiro, an economist at Fundação Getúlio Vargas University who studies China, said he expected the fallout in Latin America from the coronavirus will be greater than that of the 2003 SARS outbreak, which also originated in China.

Several of the leading economies in the region had been growing sluggishly, if at all, even before the coronavirus scare.

The precise dimensions of the outbreak are hard to know, especially in China, which has changed its definition of a “confirmed” case several times. Not all infected people have received a diagnosis, and some countries, like Singapore and the United States, have more proactive testing and containment efforts than others do.

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