As fears over the spread of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) heighten, local schools and hospitals are putting plans in place should the disease become a pandemic in the U.S.

“It's not so much a question of if this will happen anymore, but rather more a question of exactly when this will happen and how many people in this country will have severe illness,” the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warned this week.

Baylor Scott and White Medical Center – Waxahachie says it is closely monitoring the new respiratory virus and is ready to take necessary actions to contain it, as prescribed by the CDC.

“The safety of our patients and staff remains a priority,” the hospital said in a statement. “We continue to work closely with local and state health departments to conduct screenings in accordance with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines and recommendations for high consequence infectious diseases.”

Meanwhile, the Waxahachie Independent School District, with a student population of over 9,500 and 1,400 employees, says it too is keeping a close eye on the virus as it continues to spread globally.

“We work closely with the health department to keep track of potential concerns,” District Spokesperson Jenny Bridges explained. “We encourage all students and staff members to wash their hands regularly and to stay home if they exhibit symptoms of any contagious illness.”

The CDC has issued these preventive actions:

· Avoid close contact with sick people.

· While sick, limit contact with others as much as possible.

· Stay home if you are sick.

· Cover your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands; germs spread this way.

· Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with germs.

· Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub with at least 60 percent alcohol.

As of Thursday, there have been 53 confirmed cases of coronavirus nationwide, including San Antonio.

Officials, however, say the risk to Texans “remains low.”

“The individuals will remain isolated at medical facilities until they test negative for the virus and are no longer at risk of spreading it,” stated the Texas Department of State Health said in a report - Current Situation: Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID‑19) Outbreak. “There are no other cases in Texas, and these cases do not change the risk of infection for people in San Antonio or other parts of Texas, because the patients have been under federal quarantine since their return [from China and Japan], and have not interacted with the public in Texas communities. The risk for all Texans remains low

While no deaths have been reported in the U.S. as of Friday, nearly 3000 associated deaths have been documented worldwide, according to the CDC.

Health officials believe the novel virus, spread mainly from person-to-person, was first transmitted from animals to humans at a live animal market in China. Reported illnesses range from mild symptoms to severe illness and death. Symptoms include fever, cough and shortness of breath.