The CDC has called upon communities to plan in advance of a potential COVID-19 pandemic declaration. The fact that this disease has caused illness, including illness resulting in death, and sustained person-to-person spread is concerning. These factors meet two of the criteria of a pandemic. As community spread is detected in more and more countries, the world moves closer toward meeting the third criteria, worldwide spread of the new virus.
For the general American public, who are unlikely to be exposed to this virus at this time, the immediate health risk from COVID-19 is considered low. It is likely that person-to-person spread will continue to occur, including in the United States.
- Certain people will have an increased risk of exposure to COVID-19. For example, healthcare workers and close contacts of individuals with COVID-19. CDC has developed guidance to help in the risk assessment and management (opens external link in new window) of people with potential exposures to COVID-19.
- Widespread transmission of COVID-19 in the United States would translate into large numbers of people needing medical care at the same time.
- Schools, childcare centers, workplaces, and other places for mass gatherings may experience more absenteeism.
- Schools can help curtail illness and panic by reminding employees, students, and families to:
- Stay home when you are sick. If possible, stay home from work, school, and errands when you are sick. You will help prevent others from catching your illness. Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth. Germs spread this way.
- Cover coughs and sneezes. Use a tissue to cover coughs and sneezes, then dispose of the tissue. When a tissue is not available, cough or sneeze into your elbow.
- Clean and disinfect surfaces or objects. Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces, especially when someone is ill. CDC has additional resources on how to clean and disinfect schools at https://www.cdc.gov/flu/school/cleaning.htm(opens external link in new window).
- Wash hands for 20 seconds. Washing hands often under clean, running water can help prevent the spread of germs. For more guidance see the CDC: When and How to Wash Your Hands (opens external link in new window) If you cannot wash your hands, use alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60-95% alcohol.
- Provide factual updates, as needed, regarding flu rates in the area, COVID-19, and tips to help decrease public fears.
- Consult with primary care provider, local, and state health departments if they experience symptoms or circumstances that seemed to match those related to exposure to COVID-19.