Even the most level-headed scientists are warning about a possible pandemic.
One of the country's top experts on infectious diseases said on CBS News this week that the disease could spread to 70% of the world's population.
Schools and hospitals are preparing for an emergency. And the Federal Reserve cut interest rates in an effort to curb the impact of last week's stock market slump, the worst since the global financial crisis in 2008.
While federal and local agencies are working to contain the spread of the virus, we've received official orders on what we can do to control it: limit physical contact and wash our hands regularly.
We can certainly do more.
We're at a time and place where we can really make a difference for our own safety now and for future crises.
We live in a country, one of only a few developed countries, where low-wage workers could lose their jobs if they call in sick.
Many of these people are bypassing healthcare because of its costs. A Gallup poll last year estimated that 1 in 4 Americans chose not to address a health issue because they were worried it would cost them too much. Another 45% of Americans delayed purchasing medicine due to its price.
Despite all of the warnings to stay home when feeling ill, it's likely many workers who serve our meals, handle the registers at our supermarkets and care for our sick and elderly, will keep showing up for work when they feel ill and may not visit a doctor for treatment.
The U.S. doesn't have a federal paid sick leave law. That especially affects low-wage workers like orderlies, phlebotomists and environmental service employees who often make less than $15 an hour and make up about 70% of hospital service workers, according to some estimates.
Not having a paid sick leave law will amplify the spread of COVID-19.
Beyond changing federal employment law, we can also address the cost issue head on.
Just making sure you aren't infected with COVID-19 could pose a serious financial burden for some Americans. In February, the Miami Herald reported that a local man who returned from a work trip to China and became ill received a $3,270 bill after being tested to rule out COVID-19.
That man was then contacted by his insurer, regarding his short-term limited plan, asking for documentation proving the flu he was diagnosed with wasn't related to a pre-existing medical condition.
The kicker? He's employed by a medical device company that doesn't offer health insurance.
So he initially bought insurance on the individual marketplace. When that premium doubled, he bought the junk plan that will likely leave his share of the test at around $1,400.
That's what happens when a necessity is treated like a luxury.
While much of healthcare policy is national, our industry is ultimately local. States and municipalities have been feeling the crunch of steady, bipartisan cuts to their public health grant programs and emergency preparedness. The lack of investment in the public health system under several administrations has weakened the frontline of defense in identifying and combating COVID-19.
Providers can't even protect themselves from contagious pathogens. A survey from group purchasing organization Premier found 86% of U.S. hospitals and health systems are worried about not having enough face masks.
COVID-19 has also quickly spotlighted the problem of depending on Chinese exports, as healthcare organizations see their lowest-price vendors shut down production because they're located in the hardest-hit areas in that country.
The drugmaker that has the greatest chance at profiting from a possible treatment for coronavirus developed that drug not through its own research and development funding but with taxpayer dollars.
It may feel like we're not, but we're more in control of this situation than we think. We're at the climax of primary season to determine the candidates who will run in November for the White House and Congress. That could affect everything, including local funding to better prepare ourselves for the next public health crisis.
Let's make choices that improve our long-term stability.