The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has outlined on Tuesday what schools and businesses would need to do if the coronavirus reaches pandemic levels, which officials say is likely.
"It's not so much of a question of if this will happen in this country any more but a question of when this will happen," Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, told reporters, according to the New York Times.
Public officials do not know if the spread of the virus will be mild or severe, she added, but Americans should prepare for it to disrupt their daily lives.
"We are asking the American public to prepare for the expectation that this might be bad," Dr. Messonnier said.
Schools are recommended to consider dividing classrooms into smaller groups or use “internet-based teleschooling" to limit person-to-person contact among students.
When it comes to businesses, the official advised for in-person meetings to be replaced by telephone conferences or other "teleworking" options.
Hospitals are encouraged to potentially alter how they triage patients and delay elective surgeries if need be. Communities might also need to postpone mass gatherings to limit contact with others.
The World Health Organisation's director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus released a statement on Monday about the growing panic with the coronavirus. The organisation has yet to call the coronavirus a "pandemic", but is prepared for it to reach that stage.
"Our decision about whether to use the world 'pandemic' is based on an ongoing assessment of the geographical spread of the virus, the severity of disease it causes, and the impact it has on a whole society," he said.
"For the moment, we are not witnessing the uncontained global spread of this coronavirus and we are not witnessing large-scale disease or death. Does the virus have pandemic potential? Absolutely. Are we there yet? From our assessment not yet."