There are currently 59 confirmed cases of the Coronavirus in the United States, including 47 individuals brought back from abroad by the State Department. The CDC is scrambling to create a vaccine and other antiviral measures, while preparing for the "inevitable" spread within the country's borders. Plans are being made to close schools, workplaces, and travel depots, and states are working to be able to detect new cases.
Nancy Messonnier, the CDC’s director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Disease, has stated that it's not a question of "if" but "when" the disease will become a major presence in the United States.
“We are asking the American public to prepare in expectation that this will be bad."
One of the major factors that might slow the spread of the virus in America is our reliance on private transportation rather than public transit, which has helped spread the disease in other countries. The CDC warns that the virus can still spread into isolated rural areas, citing the virus spread into every region in China. The other danger for infection in isolated area is that people might be too far to get medical care.
The medical response in China has been very quick. Unlike during the SARS epidemic, which they didn't inform the WHO for months after the breakout, Chinese researchers quickly published COVID-19’s genomic sequence online in January; therefore, scientists around the world could rapidly begin the race to develop tests, antiviral drugs, and vaccines. An early attempt at a vaccine has been developed by Moderna Therapeutics and has been delivered to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). The hope is to have human testing in April, but in the meantime, the CDC heavily recommends regularly handwashing and disinfecting surfaces as the best methods of combating the spread of the virus. Unfortunately, there's been very little in terms of a formal plan from the CDC, and some experts feel that many of the agencies best suited to deal with the crisis have been gutted by the Trump Administration. Despite this, Messonnier has stated that the CDC has been preparing for a pandemic in the borders for decades, but surprise pandemics will always catch the best prepared off guard.
In an article in the New Republic:
There are, in fact, well-known and effective steps an interested government could take to defend against the coronavirus. Yet few places seem as ill-suited for dealing with a pandemic as the U.S. under the current administration. Our patchy, expensive, and inefficient health care system is already charging people thousands of dollars to get tested for the coronavirus, discouraging the kind of early diagnosis necessary for containment. The expense could prevent millions from seeking treatment, spurring the spread and death count alike. Meanwhile, 40-plus years of right-wing attacks on the public sphere have drained capacity and talent from the government, making it harder to take on big problems at scale. And a bipartisan panic about budget deficits has made large-scale spending on anything but wars virtually unthinkable.
Trump’s governing approach—characterized by a chaotic mix of small-government fetishism, big-government xenophobia, distrust of scientific authority, fondness for authoritarians, aversion to international coordination, and bumbling administrative incompetence, all topped off by a penchant for spreading disinformation—makes an effective response harder still. “Deployment of a containment operation,” the World Health Organization advises, in contrast, “will require extraordinary international advance planning on the part of WHO and countries worldwide.” Literally and figuratively, Pandemic is a cooperative game.
In the meantime, people have begun preparing in their own way. Facial mask sales have spiked in the face of the crisis, even though they create a shortage for medical professionals, and they're not as effective as simple handwashing. Others have gone full Prepper, with bottled water and canned food.
A Business Insider article details this trend.
Demand for survival gear is surging following the spread of the coronavirus and other global developments.
In the United States, a growing number of consumers are buying gas masks, hazmat suits, and even $20,000 underground bunkers to prepare for doomsday scenarios.
And for the companies that cater to survivalists, 2020 has been a record year so far. In January alone, three main events have fueled the demand for gear: the outbreak of the coronavirus, a rash of devastating bushfires in Australia, and the US government's assassination of Iranian military leader Qasem Soleimani.