The number of Americans with confirmed COVID-19 infections skyrocketed over the weekend, as commercial diagnostic service providers helped the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to unwind a tremendous testing backlog.

As the number of reported infections surpassed 600 on Monday, the director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, Nancy Messonnier, held a press briefing to warn Americans to prepare for a long battle against the spreading coronavirus.

A gloved hand holds a vial marked COVID 19.

Image source: Getty Images.

People, get ready

Messonnier said the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak could continue spreading into 2021 while advising Americans at risk and their families to take precautions. The virus responsible for COVID-19 infections, SARS-CoV-2, can live on surfaces for days, and since none of our immune systems has seen this virus before, everyone is highly susceptible.

The number of new cases in the U.S. has more than tripled in a couple of days and will continue soaring now that Quest Diagnostics (DGX -0.17%) and its diagnostic service providing peers have received a green light to provide new testing services.

A study conducted by Cedars-Sinai suggests there could have been at least 9,000 people in the U.S. with COVID-19 infections at the beginning of March. Despite the getting off to a bad start, the rate at which COVID-19 spreads throughout the U.S. can still be mitigated by careful hand washing and social distancing. 

Help on the way

There are plenty of experimental vaccines in development that could help prevent infections from occurring, but drugmakers still need to test those vaccines over long stretches of time before we can be certain they're safe and effective.

Gilead Sciences (GILD 0.29%) is testing an antiviral infusion for severely affected patients called remdesivir, and anecdotal evidence suggests it works. Before remdesivir becomes widely available, though, we need to wait for more data from a larger group of treated patients.