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How to Prepare for a Coronavirus Pandemic

The Worst-Case Scenario Isn’t Inevitable, but It Can’t Be Ignored

A police officer at a roadblock in in Jiujiang, China, January 2020 Thomas Peter / Reuters

When the first reports of a coronavirus outbreak hit the airwaves in early January, several dozen people had already caught the disease in or around the Chinese city of Wuhan. In the weeks since, the virus, nCoV, has spread quickly and the number of infections has grown by the day, even as Wuhan and other Chinese cities isolated large numbers of patients and quarantined some 50 million residents. At the latest count (as of Friday morning), there have been 213 deaths in China out of a total of 9,776 confirmed cases, and the virus has spread to more than 20 countries. On Thursday, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the disease a “Public Health Emergency of International Concern.”

The epidemic is still in its early days, and its defining characteristics will take time to understand. The scale of nCoV’s ultimate impact will depend on just how contagious it reveals itself to be and

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