The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the U.S. keeps climbing. As of March 16, there are more than 3,700 cases of the novel coronavirus, and at least 69 people have died from it, according to the Johns Hopkins University database. While it is too late to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus, there are steps we can take to mitigate its impact. In that spirit, the U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC) recently released new guidance to help slow down the spread of the disease.

The public health institute warns that large crowds can contribute to the spread of COVID-19 and recommends that for the next eight weeks, all gatherings of more than 50 people should be canceled or postponed. These measures will help avoid, or at least limit, the introduction of the SARS-CoV-2 virus (which causes COVID-19) into new communities.

Face mask with "COVID-19" written on it.

Image Source: Getty Images.

The hunt for vaccines and treatments continues

Given the current threat, the importance of developing a vaccine or a treatment for this rapidly spreading disease can hardly be overstated. A trial for a COVID-19 vaccine candidate that was developed by Moderna (MRNA -3.23%) in collaboration with the U.S. National Institute of Health is set to begin on Monday, March 16.

It is, however, the earliest clinical trial phase -- its purpose is solely to determine whether the vaccine is safe. If it causes no significant serious adverse side effects, larger trials will be needed to see how effective it is.

Other biotech companies are also working on developing a vaccine for COVID-19. Inovio Pharmaceutical (INO 5.91%), which claimed that it had created a potential vaccine three hours after the SARS-CoV-2 gene sequence was made public, is set to begin clinical trials next month. Even with this progress, though, public health officials say it will probably be a year to 18 months before a vaccine becomes available to the public.