BOSTON (CBS) – As schools close, people are asked to work at home and social distancing becomes the norm, many are asking if all of these precautions are necessary, or is the reaction to coronavirus much ado about nothing?

Dr. Paul Sax, a professor at Harvard University and a doctor at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, as well as a specialist in infectious diseases, said the precautions are indeed necessary.

“It’s important for two reasons – both for your personal health because it’s less likely you’ll get exposed to the virus but also for the benefit of others because when we flatten the curve, the system can’t take too many extra sick people at one time.”

Sax said people in high-risk groups should be especially conscious of being around large groups of people.

While many have said likened the coronavirus to the flu. Dr. Sax said, “They’re both potentially very serious. The flu, of course, we know has a seasonal peak and then goes away. This is a totally new virus coming into a population that is susceptible to it, and it’s our population and we a very much at risk of having the kind of exponential growth that they saw in China when it first appeared.”

Sax said the United States must be prepared for the coronavirus. He said that people seem to be the most contagious at their sickest, so people shouldn’t go to work if they’re not feeling well to help prevent community spread.

“It’s critical people shouldn’t go to work if they’re sick,” Sax said. He added that he believes caution can make a difference, even though the virus is in the U.S.

“I have some optimism about it because I’ve seen some places that have responded quite brilliantly. South Korea has done a wonderful job in accelerating testing, accelerating containment and bringing the curve down in the epidemic,” Sax said. “But it’s going to take a lot of community effort.”

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