CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The potential for coronavirus to become widespread in the United States has prompted the CDC to warn hospitals, schools, local and state governments and businesses to gear up.
In Charlotte, hospitals and health departments are getting ready to respond should coronavirus become an issue in the Carolinas.
The CDC said it's not a matter of if but when the virus becomes widespread in the United States.
In the Carolinas, hospitals and health departments are doing what they can to prepare for it, but it's also important to remember there are no confirmed cases of coronavirus in North or South Carolina at this point.
"The immediate risk to the general American public remains low, but as we have warned that has the potential to change quickly," US Health Secretary Alex Azar said.
The CDC warns we'll see the number of confirmed cases of coronavirus rise.
"People shouldn't panic if they see new cases," Azar said. "They should know their government, predicted they would have them and have plans in place."
Governor Roy Cooper’s task force on coronavirus gave an update Wednesday afternoon.
"We've been already working and will continue to work all of those different scenarios, what would it look like, how would North Carolina be prepared,” said Dr. Elizabeth Cuervo Tilson, State Health Director and Chief Medical Officer for NCDHHS.
Later Wednesday evening, President Donald Trump gave an update on the national plans.
Trump says the U.S. is “very, very ready” for whatever the new coronavirus threat brings, and appointed Vice President Mike Pence to lead the U.S. response to the global outbreak.
Health officials are warning there could be a point where religious practices would need to be held at home, rather than in large community spaces.
They’re encouraging businesses to think about what would happen if they need employees to stay home.
"A lot of our business sectors have been asking what can we do? Now is a good time to look at your HR policies, start brushing off those policies,” Cuervo Tilson said.
What hospital are doing
Atrium Health says rooms are ready for any infectious disease. Doctors and staff are trained to wear goggles, masks, gloves, and gowns in those rooms.
Novant Health released the following statement on behalf of David Priest, M.D., the SVP and Chief Safety & Quality Officer, Novant Health:
“Across Novant Health, we have standard protocols in place to ensure we are prepared to care for patients who may have come into contact with emerging infectious diseases. This includes a patient travel history screening and a mask-wearing policy for certain presenting symptoms. This is a rapidly evolving situation and we are working closely with national, state, and local health departments to protect our patients and team members.”
The Health Departments in both North and South Carolina following the CDC's guidance.
What schools are doing
Schools have been urged to come up with action plans. Many local school districts, including CMS, are turning to the State Department of Instruction for guidance.
State Superintendent Mark Johnson says a plan will be ready next week, many of the protocols already in place but this, uncharted territory.
“We also want to work with our partners at the health and human services department, make sure that we don't put out too much and scare people," Johnson told WCNC Charlotte. "But we need to take this seriously."
In South Carolina, Lancaster County schools announced they’re getting to work on an action plan.
“The precautionary side of things, I think that’s the smart move for the county, we have to make sure teachers, faculty, all administrative staffs are fully prepared in case it does end up hitting the schools,” said Sally Jolly of Lancaster County.
What you can do
Keeping yourself protected is similar to any other infectious disease. Frequent 20 second-hand washes are your first line of defense. If you're sick, stay home so you don't spread your germs
You can still get your flu shot, if everyone did that fewer people would get the flu, leaving medical resources for possible coronavirus cases.
Tilson said, however, if you aren't sick you shouldn't go rush to buy a face mask.
They will not protect someone who is healthy from getting sick -- it will only diminish the supply for those who are sick and should be wearing them.