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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2:41 p.m. ET, March 17, 2020

There has been a 40% decrease in travel through Atlanta's airport

From CNN’s Angela Barajas and Nick Valencia 

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp said today that passenger traffic at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport is down 40%.

Airport officials are screening passengers on flights arriving from international destinations before they disembark.

A TSA agent who had tested positive fro COVID-19 is now in quarantine. 

2:39 p.m. ET, March 17, 2020

Italy now has more than 31,000 confirmed cases

From CNN's Nicola Ruotolo in Rome and Mia Alberti in London

Italy announced 3,526 new cases of the novel coronavirus today, bringing the country's total to 31,506, according to Angelo Borreli, chief of the Italian Civil Protection Department.

There were also 345 more deaths recorded today, bringing the total number of coronavirus deaths in Italy to 2,503, Borrelli said. 

Here's what else Borrelli said:

  • 192 more people recovered from the virus Tuesday. 
  • There are 1,108 people in isolation with light or no symptoms
  • 2,060 are in intensive care (10% of the cases)
2:37 p.m. ET, March 17, 2020

Airports are concerned about ability to pay debts and fund ongoing projects 

From CNN's Geneva Sands

US airports are seeking $10 billion in immediate relief from Congress to help maintain ongoing operations, while continuing to pay for projects and service debt, according to the American Association of Airport Executives. 

“I want to make clear that I'm not suggesting that airports are going to shut down,” said Joel Bacon, AAE Executive Vice President, Government & Public Affairs. “What we are worried about is the ability to meet ongoing operational concerns and to pay for ongoing projects and existing debt.”

There's a “high level of concern" amongst airports about the ability of airlines to weather the storm, Bacon said. Therefore the association is working to be as supportive as possible to the relief request from the airlines. 

The airport association is calling on Congress for a relief package that includes funds for both airports and airlines. There is a “symbiotic and interdependent” relationship between the two industries, Bacon said. 

Airports collect fees from airline passengers and as the number of travelers continue to drop, the airports anticipate significant revenue loss.

The industry is estimating a 40% reduction in revenue at airports, which translates into roughly $10 billion — the request for the administration and Congress for relief. 

Bacon said the proposal was “well received” on the Hill, but things remain fluid. 

2:34 p.m. ET, March 17, 2020

Florida's governor issues statewide executive order on bars, beaches and restaurants

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis just issued an executive order to reduce crowds in restaurants, bars, nightclubs and beaches in response to the coronavirus outbreak.

Here's how it breaks down, according to the governor's press release:

  • Bars and nightclubs: They are closed for the next 30 days.
  • Beaches: All parties accessing public beaches in the state of Florida must follow the CDC guidance by limiting their gatherings to no more than 10 people.
  • Restaurants: They will now be required to limit customer entry to 50% capacity. Seating must be staggered and limited to ensure guests are separated by a distance of at least six feet, in accordance with CDC guidelines. Restaurants are encouraged to remain open and expand take-out and delivery services.
2:33 p.m. ET, March 17, 2020

Disney postpones Marvel's 'Black Widow' due to coronavirus outbreak

From CNN’s Frank Pallotta

Walt Disney Pictures
Walt Disney Pictures

"Black Widow," the new Marvel film starring Scarlett Johansson, has been postponed. The film was set to hit theaters on May 1. 

The company did not give a new release date for the film. 

Disney also announced that it would be delaying "The Personal History of David Copperfield," which was set to open on May 8, and "The Woman in the Window," which was scheduled to hit theaters on May 15.

The company did not say when it would release those films.

2:53 p.m. ET, March 17, 2020

Macy's will temporarily close all stores in response to coronavirus

Scott Heins/Getty Images
Scott Heins/Getty Images

Department store Macy’s will be temporarily closing all stores by the end of business day today, according to a press release.

The closings include all Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s, Bluemercury, Macy’s Backstage, Bloomingdales the Outlet and Market by Macy’s stores.

According to the release, the company will continue to use e-commerce platforms:

“We will work with government and health officials to assess when we will reopen our stores and safely bring our colleagues back to work,” said Jeff Gennette, chairman and chief executive officer of Macy’s, Inc.
2:20 p.m. ET, March 17, 2020

The world's largest hotel chain is starting to furlough employees

From CNN’s Jordan Valinsky

Marriott International, the world's largest hotel chain, has started furloughing employees.

Tens of thousands of workers could be affected by the furloughs as demand dries up for travel due to the coronavirus pandemic.

All levels of Marriott employees could be furloughed — from housekeepers to general managers. There won't be job cuts on the corporate level yet. The company has also begun shutting down some of its managed hotels. 

Marriott said in a statement to CNN Business that its business has been "experiencing significant drops in demand" at its hotels because of the pandemic and is "adjusting global operations accordingly."

 "We are working quickly to mitigate the impact to our business while also focusing on assisting our associates, our guests and our owners," a Marriott spokesperson said. "While the ultimate impact is difficult to predict at this time given the fluidity of the situation, we remain confident in our long-term prospects."

The Wall Street Journal was first to report the news, which Marriott confirmed.

The company employs 130,000 people in the US and intends to rehire many of the furloughed employees once the virus is contained.

2:16 p.m. ET, March 17, 2020

New Jersey has 89 new cases of coronavirus

New Jersey confirms 89 new coronavirus cases, bringing the statewide total to 267, Gov. Phil Murphy just announced in an ongoing press conference.

2:15 p.m. ET, March 17, 2020

New Mexico now has 20 confirmed cases

New Mexico public health officials now say the state has 20 confirmed cases of novel coronavirus, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services website.

CNN has previously reported 18 cases of Coronavirus in the state.