NEW YORK: US federal health officials have issued a grim warning about "bad" spread of coronavirus and asked the state to prepare for drastic actions like cancelling meetings because the disease was spreading its tentacle far beyond China.
The warning about meetings on Tuesday comes because the nation is preparing for the presidential elections in November with intra-party polls to pick the Democratic Party nominee yet to require place in 47 states and rallies are being held across the country.
"In expectation that this might be bad," the head of the respiratory diseases centre, Nancy Messonnier, said preventive actions for schools, businesses and health facilities should be planned.
"Disruptions to everyday life may be severe, but people might want to start thinking about that now," she said at a news briefing outlining the possible steps like scrapping meetings, closing schools and getting employees to work remotely from home if the disease spread within the US.
"It's not a question of if this will happen, but when this will happen, and how many people in this country will have severe illnesses," she said.
Messonnier is that the director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases at the Centre for Disease Control (CDC).
So far there are 57 people ill with the disease in the US, 43 of them evacuated from the cruise liner Diamond docked in Japan.
One US soldier stationed in South Korea has also come down with the disease.
San Francisco Mayor London Breed declared a state of emergency to empower local action should the novel virus spread in the city at the guts of the Silicon Valley.
The US, which has been under a state of public health emergency, has banned people that aren't citizens or permanent residents from entering the country if they need been to China within the past 14 days.
President Donald Trump's administration requested the Congress to allocate USD 2.5 billion to affect the disease.
Trump said in New Delhi that things are "very well under control in our country."
But Senate Democratic Party leader Chuck Schumer said attacked Trump saying he "has no plan, no urgency, no understanding of the facts or how to coordinate a response".
Messonnier's warning sent the stocks tumbling, with the Dow Jones index recording a loss of 3.15 per cent on Tuesday after a 3.55 per cent drop on Monday.
Another CDC official later held a press conference with a message of reassurance.
CDC Principal Deputy Director Anne Schuchat said, "We believe the immediate risk here in the United States remains low, and we're working hard to keep that risk low."
On the positive side, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci announced that clinical safety trials of coronavirus vaccine could begin in a month and a half or so and it could take a year to 18 months for it to be available to the general public.
The coronavirus, now called COVID-19, has spread from China, where quite 78,000 cases are reported with 2,715 deaths as of Wednesday morning, to South Korea with more than 1,100 cases, Italy with 300 and Iran with 95, Switzerland and Spain.
Fears of the COVID-19 are spreading within the US and therefore the state of Alabama opposed sending a number of the people quarantined from the cruise liner Diamond to a federal quarantine facility.
The federal cancelled the plan and people under quarantine will still be held at military bases in Texas and California.