Public Health chief: Coronavirus risk low in Massachusetts

The risk of contracting coronavirus in Massachusetts remains low, Public Health Commissioner Monica Bharel said Tuesday. Bharel presented Centers for Disease Control and Prevention statistics at a Public Health Council meeting, saying more than 40,000 cases have been reported, 99 percent of which are in China, where the virus was first identified.

There have been 12 confirmed cases of the illness in the United States, including one in Massachusetts, she said. "While person-to-person spread among close contact has been detected with this virus, the virus is not spreading in communities in the United States," she said.

The Department of Public Health has launched a website to provide information on coronavirus and implemented an emergency incident command center that meets daily to continue disease surveillance and update federal, state and local partners. Bharel said she wanted to offer a reminder that while there has been one confirmed coronavirus case in Massachusetts, there are "tens of thousands" of cases of influenza in the state.

"The prevention message is the same for both, and we ask people to continue with precautions as they would for any virus," she said. Those steps, Bharel said, include washing hands regularly, covering coughs and sneezes, and staying home while sick.