Disaster Preparedness Official: Don’t Panic Over Coronavirus Yet, But Be Aware

NEW YORK (WCBS 880) – The uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus has proved unsettling not just for individuals but for those operating public gathering spaces in places like New York City. Many people are worried about how quickly the threat might evolve.

Irwin Redlener, director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness, said if he were planning on going to a big public event, like a concert, or utilizing transportation, he wouldn’t think twice. But that feeling is subject to change, he said.

“If it were today and if it was me, I'd go to Paris and I would go to Los Angeles,” he said. “I'm not sure that I would give you the same answer two or three days from now.”

Redlener advises Mayor Bill de Blasio on emergency management and disaster preparedness and response.

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He said he’ll be watching closely over the coming days: “I’m going to be looking for evidence of increased spread.”

It’s not just the number of cases, but the acceleration of illnesses that is important, Redlener said.

“We don't want people to be panicked about this. But we'd like them to be attentive,” he said. “The trigger for canceling a big event would be if we start getting lots more cases in New York City—identify, diagnose people who are sick—and it looks like it’s spreading rapidly.”