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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6:53 p.m. ET, March 17, 2020

Pentagon prepares to ready Navy hospital ships to support coronavirus response

From CNN's Barbara Starr

US Navy hospital ship USNS Mercy in central Vietnam in 2018.
US Navy hospital ship USNS Mercy in central Vietnam in 2018. Linh Pham/AFP/Getty Images

Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is preparing to sign orders that could lead to the deployment of both of the US Navy’s hospital ships and a mobile hospital facility, according to two defense officials.

The two hospital ships are the USNS Mercy, currently in port in San Diego, and the USNS Comfort in Norfolk where it is undergoing maintenance. The third element that is part of the expected so-called “warning order” is a Navy Expeditionary Medical Facility, which is a mobile field hospital that has full resuscitation and emergency stabilizing surgical capability.         

According to the Navy website, an EMF is “designed to be assembled and operational in 10 days,” as a self-sustaining medical facility.      

Defense Secretary Mark Esper on Tuesday referred to the hospital ships noting, “We have already given orders to the Navy a few days ago to lean forward in terms of getting them ready to deploy. They provide capabilities.”

A warning order from Milley will then formalize the process and lead to decisions on calling up to active duty troops or other medical care organizations to operate the ships. Activating the EMF could lead to Seabees being called to build the hospital.  

But a limiting factor remain on how all of the medical needs for ships and hospital get manned.

“All of those doctors and nurses either come from our medical treatment facilities or they come from the Reserves which means civilians and so what we have go to be very conscious of and careful of as we call up these units and use them to support the states that we aren’t robbing Peter to pay Paul,” Esper said. “What I don’t want to do is take reservists from a hospital where they are needed just to put them on a ship somewhere else where they are needed so we have to be very conscious of that.”

Esper said he had spoken to several governors about that very challenge.

6:33 p.m. ET, March 17, 2020

Two more California counties ask residents to shelter in place

From CNN's Sarah Moon

Monterey and San Benito counties in Northern California are asking residents to shelter in place.

What we know about the orders:

  • Monterey County: The order begins at midnight on Wednesday and will last for three weeks until April 8, the county tweeted. 
  • San Benito County: The order starts midnight on Wednesday until April 7.

The counties join seven others in the Bay Area that have ordered its residents to shelter in place to prevent the spread of coronavirus. Those counties include Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara and Santa Cruz.

6:24 p.m. ET, March 17, 2020

PGA TOUR cancels 4 more tournaments

From CNN's Kevin Dotson

The PGA TOUR is canceling four additional tournaments, the group announced in a statement Tuesday.

That brings the total to eight canceled PGA events and three postponed events, including The Masters and the PGA Championship.

The next PGA TOUR event that has not yet been impacted by coronavirus is the Charles Schwab Challenge in Fort Worth Texas, which begins May 21.

6:20 p.m. ET, March 17, 2020

Belgium will restrict movement in the country because of the coronavirus outbreak

From CNN's James Frater and Lauren Kent in London

Belgium will enforce restrictions on movement of people beginning Wednesday at noon local time (7 a.m. ET), according to a statement from the government. 

The measures, which will remain in place until April 5, will require citizens to stay at home except for outdoor physical activity and essential travel. 

Essential travel includes going to the doctor, supermarket, post office, bank, pharmacy, gas stations, or to help people in need. 

Non-essential travel outside Belgium will be prohibited and citizens are encouraged to work from home. 

"Companies — whatever their size — are required to organize telework for any function where this is possible without exception," the statement said. "For those for whom this organization is not possible, respect for social distancing will be scrupulously respected. This rule applies both in the exercise of work and in transport organized by the employer. If it is impossible for businesses to meet these obligations, they must close."

Companies who do not respect the social distancing measures will face a "heavy fine," according to the statement.

6:34 p.m. ET, March 17, 2020

Brooklyn Nets Kevin Durant tests positive for coronavirus

From CNN's David Close

Chris Elise/NBAE/Getty Images
Chris Elise/NBAE/Getty Images

Brooklyn Nets Kevin Durant has tested positive for coronavirus, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic.

Earlier on Tuesday, the Nets announced that four of their players had tested positive for COVID-19 but did not reveal names.

According to Charania, Durant told The Athletic that he is feeling fine, saying, "Everyone be careful, take care of yourself and quarantine. We're going to get through this."

According to the team, all four Nets players are in quarantine with only one experiencing symptoms.

CNN Sports has reached out to Durant’s agent for comment.

Watch here:

6:32 p.m. ET, March 17, 2020

Coronavirus is now in all 50 states

From CNN's Dave Alsup

Coronavirus is now reported to be in all 50 US states after West Virginia confirmed its first case Tuesday .

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice announced at a news conference Tuesday that the state had a case of coronavirus.


6:00 p.m. ET, March 17, 2020

Gambia reports first case of coronavirus

From CNN’s Jackie Castillo in Atlanta

Gambia announced its first confirmed coronavirus case in a short tweet from the Health Ministry.

The ministry did not provide additional details only stating more information will be released at another time.

5:59 p.m. ET, March 17, 2020

US-Guatemala asylum agreement suspended over coronavirus

From CNN's Priscilla Alvarez 

An asylum agreement between the United States and Guatemala was temporarily suspended out of caution over coronavirus, Guatemala’s government announced Tuesday, a setback for the Trump administration which has increasingly relied on its accord with the country to curb asylum. 

The move comes a day after Guatemala's president Alejandro Giammattei said the country was closing its border in an attempt to prevent the spread of coronavirus. 

Guatemala’s ministry of foreign affairs also said US deportation flights of Guatemalans were canceled Tuesday. 

DHS did not respond to CNN’s request for comment. 

5:57 p.m. ET, March 17, 2020

UK police may detain "infectious" persons under new coronavirus "emergency bill" proposals

From CNN's Mia Alberti in Lisbon

Proposed emergency legislation to tackle coronavirus in the UK will allow police and immigration officials to detain a person who is, or might be "infectious," according to the government’s website.

“Public support and compliance is crucial and we are grateful for the flexibility people have shown, but we need to ensure police and immigration officers have the authority to enforce these measures where necessary. Therefore, the bill will enable the police and immigration officers to detain a person, for a limited period, who is, or may be, infectious and to take them to a suitable place to enable screening and assessment,” an outline of the "coronavirus bill" on the UK government websites said.

This is a step up from the March 3 government guidelines in which authorities could only detain those not respecting mandated quarantines. The bill will also enable UK Border Force to temporarily suspend operations at airports or transport hubs "if there are insufficient resources to maintain border security."

According to the UK government, the bill also increases the protections for health professionals and independent workers. It will be introduced to Parliament this week.

It will allow "recently retired NHS staff and social workers to return to work" without any impact in their pensions, reduce paperwork to allow quicker discharges, insure health professionals working outside their area of expertise and allow volunteers to pause their normal jobs up to four weeks, the government website said.

"This could benefit more than 3 million people who already volunteer in health and care settings and bolster the NHS’s capacity to respond to the virus," the outline said. 

Independent workers in self-isolation without symptoms since day one will also be able to access statutory sick pay. 

UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the new measures “will only be used when it is absolutely necessary and must be timed to maximize their effectiveness, but crucially they give the government the powers it needs to protect lives."

The legislation will be limited – for 2 years – and not all of these measures will come into force immediately, the website said.

"By planning for the worst and working for the best we will get through this," Hancock said in a statement.

The UK’s Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty said the UK's approach to COVID-19 "has and will remain driven by the scientific and clinical evidence."