‘This could be bad,’ CDC official warns of inevitable coronavirus spread in US

This transmission electron microscope image shows SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, isolated from a patient in the U.S. Virus particles are shown emerging from the surface of cells cultured in the lab. The spikes on the outer edge of the virus particles give coronaviruses their name, crown-like. | NIAID-RML

Stock markets were sent diving Tuesday after officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned schools, hospitals and businesses to prepare for the inevitable spread of the deadly coronavirus in the U.S., which “could be bad.”

“It’s not so much of a question of if this will happen anymore but rather more of a question of exactly when this will happen,” Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said at a news conference.

The outbreak of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) caused by the 2019 novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) began in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China in December 2019. Since then, according to the CDC, it has spread throughout China and 31 other countries and territories, including the U.S.

As of Feb. 23, there were 76,936 reported cases in mainland China and 1,875 cases in locations outside mainland China. There have also been 2,462 associated deaths worldwide.

There are currently 53 cases of the disease in the U.S. of which only 14 were diagnosed stateside. Some 39 cases are from individuals repatriated from high-risk areas. So far no deaths have been reported in the U.S.

Symptoms for the coronavirus can include a fever, cough and shortness of breath. They can appear in as little as two days or as long as 14 days after exposure.

Messonnier warned that cities and towns should start planning for “social distancing measures,” like dividing school classes into smaller groups of students or closing schools altogether, The New York Times reported. It was also suggested that meetings and conferences may have to be canceled while businesses needed to make arrangements for employees to work from home.

“The disruption to everyday life might be severe,” Messonnier said. “We are asking the American public to work with us to prepare, in the expectation that this could be bad.”

On Tuesday, Congress challenged Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, who heads the U.S. coronavirus task force, about his agency’s preparedness for the coronavirus in the U.S., especially in light of its request for $2.5 billion in emergency funding, which was not viewed as enough to fight the disease.

“It seems to me at the outset that this request for the money … is lowballing it,” Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., the committee’s chairman, said, according to the Wall Street Journal. “You can’t afford to do that.”

On Tuesday during the Democratic presidential debate in South Carolina, candidates criticized the Trump administration’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak but the president quickly defended himself on Twitter.

“CDC and my Administration are doing a GREAT job of handling Coronavirus, including the very early closing of our borders to certain areas of the world. It was opposed by the Dems, ‘too soon’, but turned out to be the correct decision,” Trump wrote.

“Democrats talking point is that we are doing badly. If the virus disappeared tomorrow, they would say we did a really poor, and even incompetent, job. Not fair, but it is what it is. So far, by the way, we have not had one death. Let’s keep it that way!”

On Tuesday, financial markets fell for the second day due to concern over the virus’ economic impact, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average down nearly 900 points.

On Wednesday, President Trump accused liberal news networks CNN and MSNBC of playing up fears of the virus to panic markets and promised to address the issue at a news conference at 6 p.m.

“Low Ratings Fake News MSDNC (Comcast) & @CNN  are doing everything possible to make the Caronavirus (sic) look as bad as possible, including panicking markets, if possible. Likewise their incompetent Do Nothing Democrat comrades are all talk, no action. USA in great shape!” he tweeted. “I will be having a News Conference at the White House, on this subject, today at 6:00 P.M. CDC representatives, and others, will be there. Thank you!”

As fear over the virus continues to grow, End Times Pastor Rick Wiles told viewers of his TruNews web show not to “get into crazy, whacked-out theories” about what he said could be a “global pandemic” that kills “hundreds of millions of people.”

“God is about to purge a lot of sin off of this planet,” Wiles said Monday. “Look at the United States, look at the spiritual rebellion in this country — the hatred of God, the hatred of the Bible, the hatred of righteousness.”

He added: “There are vile, disgusting people in this country now, transgendering little children, perverting them. Look at the rapes, and the sexual immorality, and the filth on our TVs and our movies. Folks, the Death Angel may be moving right now across the planet. This is the time to get right with God.”

Wiles noted that he is now enforcing his own self-quarantine by only going from home to his Flowing Streams Church in Florida.

Pastor Stephen Ko of the New York Chinese Alliance Church in New York City, who is also a doctor and formerly an infectious disease expert for the CDC, told NPR that pastors need to be helping to fight the stigma and xenophobia surrounding the coronavirus.

While there are no known cases of the coronavirus in New York City, the church is close to New York University which has a large population of Chinese students and some of their families have been infected with the virus.

“We really have a calling as pastors to care for the vulnerable and also combat stigma and xenophobia. The worst thing we can do now is close our doors to a community that is hurting, that is suffering and is in pain from a crisis that is not only mental, physical but also financial,” Ko said after fielding a barrage of questions from his congregation about the virus recently.

“What we are doing is opening our doors and inviting them into a safe place where they can fellowship and share and pray together,” he added.

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