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U.S. coronavirus outbreak inevitable, CDC official says

National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases Director Nancy Messonnier. | Samuel Corum/Getty Images A coronavirus outbreak in the United States is now inevitable, a top CDC official said Tuesday, elevating concerns that the public health emergency could soon become a full-scale pandemic. “Ultimately, we will see community spread in this country,” Nancy Messonnier, the…

National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases Director Nancy Messonnier. | Samuel Corum/Getty Images

A coronavirus outbreak in the United States is now inevitable, a top CDC official said Tuesday, elevating concerns that the public health emergency could soon become a full-scale pandemic.

“Ultimately, we will see community spread in this country,” Nancy Messonnier, the director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases told reporters on a call. “It’s not a question of if but rather a question of when and how many people in this country will have severe illness.”

CDC and other health officials have for weeks suggested the potential for the coronavirus to spread in the United States but Messonnier said recent reports of community spread in countries like South Korea and Italy have made it increasingly unlikely that the United States will avoid an outbreak. To date, there are 53 confirmed U.S. cases, according to CDC.

“CDC is concerned about the situation but we are putting our concerns to work preparing,” she said. “Now is the time for hospitals, schools and everyday people to begin preparing as well.”

She added that authorities are working with states and localities on contingencies like promoting telework or discouraging large public gatherings if the virus spreads.

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