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CDC warns Americans coronavirus spread is not a matter of if, but when

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Published: Feb. 25, 2020 at 2:58 PM EST
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February 25, 2020

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Tuesday it expects coronavirus to spread in the United States and asked Americans to prepare.

"Ultimately, we expect we will see community spread in this country," Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, told reporters.

"It's not so much a question of if this will happen anymore, but rather more of a question of exactly when this will happen and how many people in this country will have severe illness," she said.

"We are asking the American public to work with us to prepare in the expectation that this could be bad," she said. "I continue to hope that in the end we'll look back and feel like we are overprepared, but that is a better place to be in than being underprepared."

Messonnier spoke as the number of coronavirus cases grew worldwide. Italy reported a 45% single-day increase in infections. Italian officials reported 10 deaths and 322 confirmed coronavirus cases.

Meanwhile, South Korea was racing to contain the largest outbreak of the virus outside China, which is home to the majority of cases. The nearly 1,000 cases and 10 confirmed deaths from the illness in South Korea pushed the global tally of patients over 80,000 and the death toll closer to 3,000.

Iran has also reported more deaths from the disease, amid fears the Islamic clerics who run the country could be under-reporting cases there.

The World Health Organization has called it a global health emergency but has declined to use the label "pandemic," a term used when a disease takes hold in multiple regions and spreads rampantly within communities. But the dramatic spread in South Korea, Iran and Italy has stoked fears that COVID-19 could reach pandemic status.

The Trump administration has sought billions of dollars in additional funding from Congress to buy protective gear and work on treatments and a vaccine for the new virus. Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi lambasted the funding plan as "long overdue and completely inadequate to the scale of this emergency."

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