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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4:23 p.m. ET, March 17, 2020

Montenegro confirms first two coronavirus cases

From CNN's Radina Gigova

Montenegro has confirmed the first two coronavirus cases for the country, Prime Minister Duško Marković announced Tuesday.

In order to protect citizens from the spread of coronavirus, public transportation including buses and rail is suspended, the operation of indoor and outdoor sports and recreational facilities and swimming pools is prohibited, the government said in a statement on Tuesday.

Hair and beauty salons will also be closed, according to the statement.

The government is recommending weddings be postponed and advises burials to be held in a narrow family circle.

Shops should also dedicate the first two hours of opening to the elderly and persons with disabilities, the government said.

5:01 p.m. ET, March 17, 2020

Stocks stage rebound after one of the ugliest days

From CNN’s Anneken Tappe

US stocks finished higher on Tuesday, staging a rebound after one of the ugliest days on record for the market in the prior session.

The Trump administration outlined measures to combat the coronavirus fallout, including a proposed $1 trillion economic response package, that were deemed positive by investors.

Here's where things stand:

  • The Dow closed up 5.2%, or 1,049 points, higher. 
  • The S&P 500 rose nearly 6%.
  • The Nasdaq Composite finished 6.2% higher.

As stocks settle after the trading day, levels might still change slightly.

Watch:

3:58 p.m. ET, March 17, 2020

Spain will distribute more than 1 million face masks

From CNN's Lauren Kent and Mia Alberti

Spanish authorities have begun distributing more than one million surgical masks across the country.

The Ministry of Health, in a statement, said an airplane carrying 500,000 masks arrived from Shanghai, China, on Tuesday. 

The masks "were donated and will be distributed in the next few hours," the statement read. "Besides that, between Monday and Tuesday, the government has distributed some other 546,000 masks."

The Ministry said the biggest number of masks will be sent to the capital, Madrid, "because it's also the region with the biggest number of positive cases."

4:18 p.m. ET, March 17, 2020

Study says novel coronavirus can last on surfaces for up to 3 days

From CNN's Jacqueline Howard

Kevin Hagen/AP
Kevin Hagen/AP

The details of a study that found the novel coronavirus could remain on contaminated plastic and stainless steel surfaces for up to three days has been published in the New England Journal of Medicine as a correspondence to the editor.

The study — funded by the National Institutes of Health — was posted online last week. 

For the study, researchers compared the "surface stability" of the novel coronavirus with that of the SARS-CoV-1 virus, which sparked the SARS epidemic that started in 2002.

The researchers found that the novel coronavirus could be detected on... 

  • Copper for up to four hours
  • Cardboard for up to 24 hours 
  • Plastic and stainless steel for up to 72 hours.

Also, the coronavirus could linger in aerosols — the suspension of tiny particles or droplets in the air — for up to three hours, according to the study.

SARS-CoV-2 — the name of the novel coronavirus — and SARS-CoV-1 “was similar to that of SARS-CoV-1 under the experimental circumstances tested," the researchers wrote in the study. 

Coronaviruses are a large group of viruses common among animals. In rare cases, they are what scientists call zoonotic, meaning they can be transmitted from animals to humans. Researchers have estimated that coronaviruses can linger on surfaces from just hours to more than a week.

A study published last month in The Journal of Hospital Infection found that human coronaviruses, such as SARS, have been found to persist on inanimate surfaces — including metal, glass or plastic surfaces — for as long as nine days if that surface had not been disinfected. 

Researchers continue to investigate just how long the novel coronavirus can linger on surfaces and even in the air, Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, World Health Organization infectious disease epidemiologist, said during a media briefing on Monday.  

3:51 p.m. ET, March 17, 2020

At least 100 people in the US have died from coronavirus

From CNN's Amanda Watts

At least 100 people have died from novel coronavirus across the United States, according to a tally by CNN.

There are at least 5,359 cases of the novel coronavirus in the United States, according to the state and local health agencies, governments and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

According to the CDC there are 70 cases from repatriated citizens. According to CNN Health’s tally of US cases that are detected and tested through US public health systems, there are 5,289 cases in 49 states, the District of Columbia and U.S. territories, bringing the total number of coronavirus cases to 5,359. 

West Virginia remains the only state not reporting any cases. 

3:41 p.m. ET, March 17, 2020

European Union agrees to close external borders for 30 days

From CNN’s Sarah Dean

European leaders have decided to ban non-essential travel to the European Union for 30 days, President of the European Council Charles Michel announced today, saying it is a measure "to limit the spread of the virus globally".

The decision was first announced by German Chancellor Angela Merkel following a video conference with EU heads of state. 

“All the member states have taken very strong measures to reduce movement, to reduce travel… and also to take the pressure of health services,” Michel said. “Health is going to be key – everything is going to turn around that in the coming days.”

In a joint press conference alongside Michel, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said a “big topic” of discussion was the internal blockages with the movement of goods inside the EU.

“We have a lot of traffic jams… we need these goods,” she urged, adding there was approval from member states for so-called fast track lanes to get goods flowing. 

4:13 p.m. ET, March 17, 2020

US Defense Department is giving 5 million face masks to health officials

From CNN's Ryan Browne

File photo of N95 face masks
File photo of N95 face masks Eva Hamback/AFP/Getty Images 

Secretary of Defense Mark Esper says the Defense Department will make five 5 million N95 masks available to the United States Department of Health and Human Services for distribution.  

The Defense Department is is also prepared to distribute up to 2,000 “deployable ventilators” as needed.

Esper added officials are considering activating National Guard and reserve units "to assist states with planning, logistics, and medical support as needed."

3:20 p.m. ET, March 17, 2020

Trump administration suggests salary cap for checks to Americans

From CNN's Manu Raju and Lauren Fox 

Drew Angerer/Getty Images
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

CNN has learned that the Trump administration is looking to set a cap on individuals eligible for the cash benefit.

What the threshold would be is still under consideration, but likely individuals would need to make below $100,000 perhaps the benefit could be capped for anyone making more than $75,000. 

What this is about: Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told reporters at the White House this morning that the Trump administration is working to send money directly to Americans in a bid to curb the economic fallout of the coronavirus crisis.

“We’re looking at sending checks to Americans immediately,” he said, adding that the administration was looking at ways to provide the checks within the next two weeks.

3:14 p.m. ET, March 17, 2020

What it's like at the Geneva Airport

From CNN's Dominic Rech

Photos from Geneva Airport reveal an eerily quiet scene.

One British passenger captured what he described as feeling “a little apocalyptic,” as he arrived at the transit hub in Switzerland ahead of his flight back to the UK. 

“Everything bar two cafes are shut, no lounges open, no duty free. Face masks on every few people. Can tell people just want to stay away from each other and get home. It’s super unusual vibes… there aren’t really any staff around, bar security people," he said.

In one piece of video, announcements telling passengers to “keep a certain distance from each other” is being played, while no passengers actually seem to be in sight.

Watch: