CDC outlines what closing schools, businesses would look like in US pandemic

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Travelers wearing masks arrive on a direct flight from China, after a spokesman from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said a traveller from China had been the first person in the United States to be diagnosed with the Wuhan coronavirus, at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in SeaTac, Washington, January 23, 2020.

David Ryder | Reuters

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention outlined Tuesday what schools and businesses will likely need to do if the COVID-19 virus becomes an epidemic outbreak in the U.S.

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

“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 tele-health services and delay elective surgery, she said.

“We are asking the American public to work with us to prepare for the expectation that this is going to be bad,” 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.

“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. “You should think about what you would do for child care if schools or day cares 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.

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

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.

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