Not today, not tomorrow, and not even next month, but the CDC today said a coronavirus outbreak in the US is “inevitable.” Dr. Nancy Messonnier told reporters today that Americans had better expect that it will could be “bad” when it arrives, but that measures are already under consideration for limiting it. When it does hit, however, it will impact most Americans whether they get sick or not:
Americans should brace themselves for an outbreak of the deadly coronavirus to upend their daily lives, health officials warned Tuesday — saying “this might be bad.”
“It’s not so much of a question of if this will happen in this country anymore but a question of when this will happen,” the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Dr. Nancy Messonnier told reporters.
“We are asking the American public to prepare for the expectation that this might be bad.”
Bad how? The mortality rate so far is running between two to three percent, which is a relatively high number for a virus with such easily transmissive qualities. Bad also refers to the measures that will have to be adopted when it arrives in earnest, and also the impact on daily life for quite a while afterward:
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.
“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.
On yesterday’s Drew Mariani Show on Relevant Radio®, I interviewed Dr. Robert Tiballi, an epidemiologist who also warned that a US outbreak is inevitable. However, Dr Tiballi emphasized that it’s not at all imminent, which means that travel within the US either locally or on mass transport is not yet an issue. Even travel outside the US isn’t yet an issue except to those places where coronavirus outbreaks have already occurred. That won’t be the case for too long, however, so those who are considering travel later in the year had better prepare for disruption.
Both the timing and the location might come into play when considering this year’s Summer Olympics in Tokyo. IOC board member Dick Pound said today that the decision on whether to hold the games could be put off until late May, but that a cancellation is a serious risk at the moment. The IOC is unlikely to move the games or postpone them, Pound hinted:
“In and around that time, I’d say folks are going to have to ask: ‘Is this under sufficient control that we can be confident about going to Tokyo or not?’” he said in an exclusive interview with The Associated Press.
As the games draw near, he said, “a lot of things have to start happening. You’ve got to start ramping up your security, your food, the Olympic Village, the hotels. The media folks will be in there building their studios.”
If the IOC decides the games cannot go forward as scheduled in Tokyo, “you’re probably looking at a cancellation,” he said.
That makes the most sense, and perhaps a contrast to the IOC’s thinking in the last games. The Rio Olympics took place in the middle of the Zika outbreak, a viral issue that had a number of epidemiologists warning that the games should have been canceled. They held them anyway without too much issue of spreading the disease, but Zika is less transmissible than the coronavirus through human-to-human contact.
MSNBC’s Katy Tur interviewed epidemiologist Dr. Anthony Fauci on the meaning of this announcement. Tur took the opportunity to dig at Rush Limbaugh later in the segment, but the first three or four minutes is pretty informative:
The Trump administration is attempting to ease fears by noting — correctly — that there have only been 54 cases in the US, most of which came from the Diamond Princess cruise ship stuck in Japan. At the moment, the US has it well under control, but that’s not the biggest issue. The longer this runs in other countries, the more certainty that it will be carried here and let loose. It’s at least a little risky for Trump and Larry Kudlow (!) to go on the record to say it will go away soon at this point. Is the White House sure it doesn’t want to hedge that bet? Just a little bit, maybe?