SAN FRANCISCO (CNN) – Health officials are warning that it may only be a matter of time before the coronavirus starts to spread here in the United States.

That has people asking how they can prepare and protect themselves.

This comes after the CDC made an announcement earlier this week that Americans should prepare for a “significant disruption” to their everyday lives and that we must prepare for the worst.

What exactly does that mean?

“That may include canceling mass gatherings, sporting events, having people work from home as much as possible,” said Dr. Celine Gounder with the NYU School of Medicine.

Experts are warning of possible school closures, but they stress that all may occur, only in certain areas where there could be some community spreading of the virus – not all across the country.

So what can the average American do to prepare or to fend off coronavirus?

Experts say there are some very simple but important steps.

“Those include items like washing your hands for at least 20 seconds. Most people do it less than 5 to 10. Including not touching your face, not touching your eyes, if you haven’t washed your hands recently,” said Chris Meekins, former assistant HHS Secretary.

Fist or elbow pumps, experts say, would be good alternatives to shaking hands while the outbreak is at its height.

Use knuckles or elbows to touch elevator buttons and doorknobs, instead of your fingers.

Also, stay home if you’re sick.

What about wearing masks, as we see people do so often in Asia?

Experts say Americans don’t need to wear masks on a widespread basis. One reason – they don’t always work perfectly.

“That could actually sometimes be more harmful than not wearing a mask, because if it’s not fitted right, you’ll fumble with it. You’ll be touching your face, which is the number-one way you get disease- is unclean hands touching your face,” said Alex Azar, HHS Secretary.

And there’s longer-term preparation Americans are being advised to make.

Experts say think of it like an approaching hurricane.

“Having maybe two-weeks worth of food at home, in terms of dry goods, canned goods, frozen goods, in case for whatever reason there were to be some quarantine instituted. And most importantly, having a good supply of prescription medications on hand,” said Dr. Gounder.

What Americans should not do, experts say, is panic.

The transmission and fatality rates from coronavirus are extremely low.

In the US, most people who get ill will survive.

As far as things we enjoy and do everyday, like going to restaurants…

“People should continue to go out to eat. I’m continuing to eat out and I’m not worried. And my job in the government was to worry about the worst possible things that could happen,” said Meekins.

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