Atop federal health official said Monday that the evolving coronavirus outbreak could persist in the United States into next year, while stressing that public health interventions could still reduce the spread of the virus and cases of illness and death.

“As the trajectory of the outbreak continues, many people in the U.S. will at some point, either this year or next, get exposed to this virus,” Nancy Messonnier of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on a call with reporters. “And there’s a good chance many will become sick.”

Messonnier noted, however, that officials do not expect most people to suffer severe cases of Covid-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus. She pointed to data from China, where the outbreak began and thousands of cases have been reviewed, that showed that some 80% of cases were mild and only a few percent were critical.

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