For most people who contract COVID-19, the disease resulting from the new coronavirus, the infection is likely to cause only mild or moderate symptoms and should not require hospitalization. However, it can become very serious for the elderly and for those with chronic diseases. In that sense, the scene across the street from Ramsdell’s condo home represented one of the worst-case scenarios in the eyes of public health experts.

“It’s going to be a disaster,” Charlene Harrington, an expert on nursing homes at the University of California, San Francisco, told the Associated Press.

COVID-19 is especially likely to fester anywhere a large number of vulnerable people are gathered. “I think that’s what we’re seeing in Washington State,” David Gifford, chief medical officer of the American Health Care Association, said during a separate press conference on Monday. Anyone infected while inside a nursing home could expose others in the local community should they venture outside, and reports that firefighters who responded to the facility had flu-like symptoms raised the specter of a wider outbreak in the area.