March 17 coronavirus news

By Helen Regan, Jessie Yeung, Adam Renton, Meg Wagner, Mike Hayes and Jack Guy, CNN

Updated 0220 GMT (1020 HKT) March 18, 2020
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3:15 a.m. ET, March 17, 2020

Here's what social distancing looks like in New York, the biggest city in the US

From CNN's Amanda Jackson

An empty Starbucks in New York on Monday.
An empty Starbucks in New York on Monday. Credit: Ben Von Klemperer

New York City is usually packed and busy around this time of year. It's finally the beginning of spring; the streets, parks, and restaurants are usually full of people, even on a weeknight.

Instead, on Monday night, restaurants and cafes were empty as people stayed home.

“It was a difficult walk around my neighborhood tonight,” resident Ben Von Klemperer told CNN.
”Some of these are my usual after-work spots, and they hold a lot of good memories. I really hope they can pull through.”
Closed stores and restaurants in New York on Monday.
Closed stores and restaurants in New York on Monday. Credit: Ben Von Klemperer

Many of the stores and cafes were closed, with signs on the doors saying they would reopen at a later point.

Even the restaurants that were still open were mostly empty and eerie. Outside, there were few people on the street -- perhaps a sign that New Yorkers are listening to health officials' pleas for social distancing.

There were few people out and about on Monday in New York City.
There were few people out and about on Monday in New York City. Credit: Ben Von Klemperer
3:07 a.m. ET, March 17, 2020

The global coronavirus recession is beginning

From CNN's Julia Horowitz

A woman walks through a quiet Times Square in New York on Monday, March 16.
A woman walks through a quiet Times Square in New York on Monday, March 16. AP Photo/Seth Wenig

As restaurants, shops, airlines and factories shut down around the world, economists are warning that a global recession is no longer a looming threat. It's here.

Dire economic data released by China on Monday showed that the country was pummeled by the coronavirus outbreak in January and February. The world's second biggest economy looks unlikely to recover any time soon.

Now, with governments and central banks in Europe and North America pursuing drastic measures to try to control the pandemic, Asia still on high alert, and financial markets in meltdown, a growing number of experts say that a global contraction is beginning.

"Whereas 10 days ago there was some legitimate uncertainty about whether the global economy was in the process of going into recession -- 10 days later, there's no question that it is," David Wilcox, former head of research and statistics at the Federal Reserve Board, told CNN Business.

Chinese economy slammed: In China, retail sales plunged 20.5% during January and February compared to 2019, industrial output was down 13.5%, and fixed asset investment fell by nearly 25%, according to the National Bureau of Statistics. The decline in industrial production was the sharpest contraction on record.

The US forecast: Goldman Sachs on Sunday downgraded its outlook for US GDP, citing a cutback in spending, supply chain disruptions and the impact of local quarantines. The investment bank thinks America's economy will now shrink 5% between April and June, after 0% growth between January and March. Growth for the year is forecast to come in at just 0.4%, down from 1.2%.

Read the full story here

2:57 a.m. ET, March 17, 2020

A student created a network of "shopping angels" to help the elderly get groceries during pandemic

From CNN's Lauren Lee

Amid the desperate crowds and sparse shelves at supermarkets across the US, there is grace in the aisles.

Jayde Powell, an 20-year-old student at the University of Nevada, Reno, is providing free grocery delivery to the sick and elderly with a growing army of volunteers.

She got the idea to organize a few volunteers when her mother mentioned calling elderly neighbors to see whether they needed anything.

"As a pre-med student, I know that people who are older or people who have heart, lung or immune conditions are especially at risk for contracting the virus," Powell told CNN.

She started "Shopping Angels" by enlisting about 20 members of her medical fraternity, Phi Delta Epsilon. As need grew, she reached out to other classmates and turned to social media to recruit more. But Powell credits her interview with CNN affiliate KVVU for putting Shopping Angels on the national scene.

"It is really quite astonishing to me," she said. "I woke up this morning to 20 voicemails and 56 emails. And I've got people in Connecticut, Long Island, Sacramento, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Arizona that want to volunteer."

How it works: Some clients give their angel a shopping list, budget and money to cover the purchase. Other clients purchase their groceries online, and a shopping angel does the pickup.

Powell requires her shopping angels to wear masks and gloves during transportation, pickup and delivery. Additionally, Powell asks her volunteers not to go inside the homes for the safety of everyone involved.

Read the full story here:

2:46 a.m. ET, March 17, 2020

Beijing police are investigating a patient who flew from the US to China while showing symptoms

From CNN's Shawn Deng and Steven Jiang in Beijing

Chinese police officers wear protective masks in Beijing on March 16.
Chinese police officers wear protective masks in Beijing on March 16. Lintao Zhang/Getty Images

Beijing police have launched a criminal investigation into a coronavirus patient who traveled to China from the US while showing symptoms, and was confirmed infected after arriving.

The patient, a woman identified by her surname, Li, is a resident of Massachusetts, said Beijing authorities in a statement online. She had attended a company conference in late February, where one of her colleagues later tested positive for the coronavirus.

The timeline: Li began noticing symptoms on March 1, like muscle aches, a fever, cough, and runny nose. She visited a local hospital on March 3, before subsequent visits on March 5, March 10, and March 11; she was prescribed antiviral medication and given a chest radiograph, but says she was not hospitalized.

Finally, on March 12, she traveled to Los Angeles, then flew onward to Beijing with her husband and son.

On the flight: A few hours after takeoff, Li told flight crew that she was experiencing symptoms. She was asked to sit in an isolation zone on the plane, and wear a mask. It wasn't for several more hours -- shortly before arriving in Beijing -- that she told crew members she had been at a conference with a person infected with coronavirus, according to an airline spokesperson.

Upon arrival, the family was taken to a hospital in Beijing, where Li was confirmed infected with the virus on March 13. She is now being treated in hospital while her husband and son stay under quarantine for medical observation.

But in the past week, contradicting claims have emerged. Nieng Yan, a professor at Princeton University, said on the social platform Weibo that Li had already tested positive in the US and had wanted to "escape" back to China -- contradicting Li's claims that she had been unable to get tested in Massachusetts.

The police say they are investigating Li for alleged violation of China's infectious disease prevention law.

2:42 a.m. ET, March 17, 2020

The world's biggest film industry is halting production

From CNN's Manveena Suri

Actor Amitabh Bachchan speaks during the inauguration of the 24th Kolkata International Film Festival in Kolkata on November 10, 2018.
Actor Amitabh Bachchan speaks during the inauguration of the 24th Kolkata International Film Festival in Kolkata on November 10, 2018. Dibyangshu Sarkar/AFP/Getty Images

The Indian film industry is halting all productions from March 19-31 as part of efforts to contain the novel coronavirus in the country.

“The health and safety of our colleagues comes first, hence we completely support the industry’s united decision to suspend productions,” Kulmeet Makkar, CEO of the Producers Guild of India, said in a statement.
“In the coming days, we will discuss details with our members on the modalities of postponing our production plans, keeping in mind the ongoing threat of Covid-19. We will continue to monitor the situation and take further decisions accordingly."

With up to 2,000 films produced every year in over 20 regional languages, the Indian film industry is the world’s biggest when it comes to the number of films made.

In recent weeks, Bollywood's biggest stars have taken to social media to raise awareness on how to prevent the spread of coronavirus in a country of more than a billion people.

Bollywood megastar Amitabh Bachchan posted a video of himself reciting a few lines of verse that he had “doodled.”


The poem spoke about listening to government advice, such as washing your hands regularly, staying indoors and practicing social distancing.

And actress Priyanka Chopra took to Instagram to promote the traditional Indian greeting of Namaste as a safe, no-contact way of greeting. 

2:30 a.m. ET, March 17, 2020

Delta flight held just before takeoff as a passenger was told they were exposed to coronavirus

From CNN's Madeline Holcombe

A Delta Air Lines flight was held before takeoff Monday in New York after a passenger said they were exposed to someone who had tested positive for coronavirus, a person involved with airport operations told CNN.

Flight 2503 was scheduled to fly from JFK Airport to Seattle that night. Just before takeoff, the individual was told that they were exposed to someone with coronavirus, the source said.

The passenger did not show any symptoms but deplaned out of an abundance of caution, the source said.

"The passenger is being questioned, the information is being supplied to the CDC. They will make a decision what becomes of this flight and the rest of us," the pilot announced to passengers on the flight. "So at this point, all I can say is just please be patient as we work through this and figure it out. We'll give you as much information as we know, as soon as we know it."

Delta confirmed the incident and said that the plane was being cleaned.

"We continue to follow all guidelines from the CDC and local health officials," Delta spokeswoman Kate Modolo told CNN. "The safety and health of our customers and crew remain our top priority."

Read the full story here.

2:19 a.m. ET, March 17, 2020

Ryan Reynolds and Blake Lively donate $1 million to help food non-profits

From CNN's Sandra Gonzalez

One of Hollywood's most famous couples is helping feed those in need during the coronavirus pandemic.

Ryan Reynolds and Blake Lively said Monday they're donating $1 million to two organizations to help older adults and low-income families -- Feeding America and Food Banks Canada.

Those groups, said statements posted to Reynolds and Lively's Twitter accounts, have been "brutally impacted" by Covid-19.

"Take care of your bodies and hearts," Reynolds' statement said. "Leave room for joy. Call someone who's isolated and might need connection."

2:09 a.m. ET, March 17, 2020

Just joining us? Here's a quick catch up

Medical workers in overalls stretch a patient under intensive care into the newly built Columbus Covid 2 temporary hospital to fight the new coronavirus infection, on March 16 at the Gemelli hospital in Rome.
Medical workers in overalls stretch a patient under intensive care into the newly built Columbus Covid 2 temporary hospital to fight the new coronavirus infection, on March 16 at the Gemelli hospital in Rome. Andreas Solaro/AFP/Getty Images

The numbers: China reported its national death toll was 3,226 on Monday. There are now more deaths from the novel coronavirus outside mainland China than inside the country.

South Korea and Japan expand travel restrictions:

  • South Korea: All visitors, regardless of the port of origin, are to undergo a temperature check when entering the country. Those exhibiting symptoms will be required to take a diagnostic test and quarantine for two weeks. South Korea is extending its postponement of the first day of school from March 23 to April 6.
  • Japan: Citizens are advised not to travel to all of Iceland, as well as some provinces of Italy, Spain, and Switzerland.

Southeast Asia locks down:

  • Malaysia: From Wednesday, citizens will be banned from traveling abroad, with foreign tourists and visitors restricted from entering the country. All non-essential businesses will be closed, along with bans on religious, sports, social, and cultural activities.
  • Philippines: 50 million people are under "enhanced community quarantine" with residents on the most populous island of Luzon told to stay home, businesses closed and public transportation suspended.
  • Thailand: The government will meet to decide on measures restricting public gatherings, closing schools, sport arenas and Muay Thai boxing rings. Those measures include canceling the annual Songkran New Year water festival.

Qantas suspends flights: Qantas Airways is slashing international flights by 90% until at least May, as coronavirus travel restrictions hammer bookings. The Australian carrier said the drastic reduction is because severe quarantine requirements are curbing people’s ability to travel overseas. 

India restrictions: All travelers from the European Union, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Switzerland, Turkey and the United Kingdom are banned from entering the country from midnight Wednesday local time. The Taj Mahal joins a list of attractions around the world that are closing their doors.

US medical equipment stocks: Top US health care officials have warned the country doesn't have enough stockpiled medical equipment like masks and gloves to deal with the coronavirus pandemic.

Tokyo 2020 Olympics: Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said today that he "secured support" from G7 leaders to hold the Games in their "complete form,” which would provide "proof that the world has contained coronavirus." Japan has faced calls to cancel the Olympics for weeks.

Met Gala postponed: One of the biggest nights on the fashion calendar has been postponed, following a wave of canceled and postponed cultural events around the world. 

2:01 a.m. ET, March 17, 2020

The Taj Mahal is closing over coronavirus concerns

From CNN's Lilit Marcus

The Taj Mahal in Agra, India, on Monday.
The Taj Mahal in Agra, India, on Monday. Credit: Pawan Sharma/AFP via Getty Images

The Taj Mahal in India has joined the list of attractions around the world that are closing their doors amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Prahlad Singh Patel, the country's Minister of Tourism, made the announcement on his Twitter account today.

"All the ticketed monuments and all other museums have been directed to be closed until March 31, 2020," he wrote.

The enormously popular marble monument often sees 50,000 visitors passing through a day. Almost 6.5 million people visited the Taj Mahal in 2018, according to statistics from the Indian Ministry of Tourism.

This is just the latest restriction in India: The country has suspended issuing any new tourist visas and is enforcing a two-week quarantine on all travelers -- including returning Indian nationals -- who are arriving from or have visited China, France, Germany, Iran, Italy, South Korea and Spain.

"The scale and extent of our interventions have increased in alignment with the evolving situation of COVID-19 [coronavirus] across the world, and India in particular," Harsh Vardhan, India's Minister of Health, told reporters earlier this month.

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in India stands at 114, including two deaths.