NC health officials warn of impending coronavirus outbreak

RALEIGH, NC (WITN) - North Carolina health officials are warning about an impending coronavirus pandemic in the U.S.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Tuesday that the rapid spread of the virus, known as COVID-19, across the globe makes it a question of when, not if, it will become widespread in the U.S. The CDC urged cities, hospitals, businesses and schools to start making preparations.

North Carolina Health Director Dr. Elizabeth Tilson said Wednesday during a media conference that the state has been making such preparations for several weeks.

A task force that includes public health and emergency management officials has been considering what policies and procedures to implement in a worst-case scenario and what supplies hospitals and other health care providers would need, Tilson said Wednesday.

Business owners should start reviewing their operational plans where large number of employees are out of work, including encouraging people to work for home and communicate over the phone or online, she said. Parents also should make contingency plans if they or their children need to stay home for an extended period, she said.

"This is just a really good time in North Carolina that, the risk is low, to start looking ahead and being prepared," Tilson said.

Dr. Tilson also noted that hospitals across North Carolina dealt with the global H1N1 flu pandemic a decade ago, so they already have the policies and procedures in place to handle another outbreak.

"We've gone through these infections before in our health care system, [they're] very good at preparing," Tilson said.