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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10:11 p.m. ET, March 17, 2020

US and Canada preparing joint statement that could suspend non-essential travel between the two countries 

From CNN's Jeremy Diamond

The United States and Canada are preparing to issue a joint statement that could suspend non-essential travel between the two countries in the next 24 to 48 hours, a Trump administration official tells CNN.

The agreement is not yet finalized and officials are still working to define "non-essential travel," but the official stressed that the new restrictions will ensure that business and trade between the two countries can continue.

Part of the discussions involve what types of vehicles and individuals would still be allowed to travel between the two borders and for what purpose, the official said. The restrictions will likely allow for significant flexibility.

Unlike travel restrictions on Europe and China, this would be a mutual agreement between the two countries.

"The Canadians have been our friends throughout this and many other crises and they continue to be honest brokers," the official said.

When Trump was asked at the coronavirus task force briefing whether he was considering closing the US land borders on Tuesday, he said, "I don't want to say that, but we are discussing things with Canada and we're discussing things with Mexico, quite honestly, and again, the relationship is outstanding with both, outstanding. We just signed our deal, the USMCA, and the relationship is very strong." 

9:30 p.m. ET, March 17, 2020

California schools likely to be closed for rest of school year, governor says

From CNN's Jon Passantino

California public schools will likely remain closed for the remainder of the school year to prevent spread of novel coronavirus, Gov. Gavin Newsom said at a news conference Tuesday.

“Don’t anticipate schools are going to open up in a week, please don’t anticipate in a few weeks,” Newsom said. “I would plan and assume that it’s unlikely that many of these schools, few if any, will open for before the summer break.”

Nearly all school districts in the state, with a total student body of 6.1 million students, have been closed in response to the coronavirus outbreak.

9:29 p.m. ET, March 17, 2020

Florida cancels all remaining testing for state’s schools

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, speaking at a news conference Tuesday, said that all remaining testing for students K-12 has been canceled for the year.

Requirements for students who are readying for graduation will still be looked at, without the testing component.

Parents will have a choice to keep their children in the same grade for the 2020-2021 school year. There will be no K-12 grades calculated for the rest of this year, he said.

9:39 p.m. ET, March 17, 2020

Nearly 8 million Northern California residents asked to shelter in place

From CNN's Jon Passantino

A pedestrian crosses an empty street in San Francisco on Tuesday, March 17.
A pedestrian crosses an empty street in San Francisco on Tuesday, March 17. David Paul Morris/Bloomberg/Getty Images

Sonoma County joined nine other Northern California counties on Tuesday, ordering residents to shelter in place to prevent the spread of novel coronavirus, raising the total number of residents under the orders in the region to nearly 8 million.

The order issued by Sonoma County restricts residents’ activity, travel, and business functions to only the most basic and essential needs. It goes into effect at midnight March 18 and will be in place for three weeks until April 7.

“In light of the recent cases of local transmission of COVID-19 in the County, we are taking proactive action to curtail the spread of the virus,” said Dr. Sundari Mase, Sonoma County's interim health officer. 

Other counties currently ordered to shelter in place include Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Monterey, San Benito, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, and Santa Cruz.

9:08 p.m. ET, March 17, 2020

Air traffic control tower at Chicago Midway International Airport is temporarily closed, FAA says

From CNN's Pierre Meilhan

The sun sets behind the air traffic control tower at Chicago Midway International Airport on Tuesday, March 17.
The sun sets behind the air traffic control tower at Chicago Midway International Airport on Tuesday, March 17. Charles Rex Arbogast/AP

The air traffic control tower at Chicago Midway International Airport has temporarily closed after several technicians at the facility tested positive for coronavirus, the Federal Aviation Administration said Tuesday.

The federal agency said the closure is necessary “while we ensure a safe work environment for air traffic controllers and technicians.”

“The airport remains open and operations will continue at a reduced rate until the situation is resolved,” the FAA said in a statement.

The airport is also shifting to "one-in-one-out" flight operations, according to the Chicago Department of Aviation.

"We have been notified by the FAA that out of an abundance of caution, access to the air traffic control tower at Midway International Airport will be limited, and flight operations will shift to "one-in-one-out," the department said in a statement.

"Subsequently, the FAA has implemented a ground delay program, which applies to any flight bound for Midway that has not yet departed its point of origin. Midway remains open, but operations will be limited until further notice. Travelers are encouraged to contact their airline for the most up-to-date flight information," the department said.

8:27 p.m. ET, March 17, 2020

Spanish prime minister announces aid package to address impact of the coronavirus outbreak

From CNN's Mia Alberti in Lisbon

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez announced Tuesday his government has approved a 200 billion euro (almost $220 billion) aid package to help tackle the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

The package amounts to about 20% of the country's GDP and is "the biggest mobilization of economic resources in Spain's history," Sanchez said during a news conference.

"We have to fight this virus in the economic front, to win against the virus. We must also protect our jobs, companies, and families with a social and economic shield so that no one is left behind. That's why, today, we approved a very important decree [for an aid package] the biggest that has ever been approved in the history of our democracy", he said on Tuesday.

Of that total amount, 600 million euros ($660 million) will be put into basic social services, with a special focus for health assistance for the elderly and other vulnerable groups. The government is also facilitating the protection of the water, electricity and communication providers "to guarantee essential public services."

"We are also guaranteeing the right to housing for those with more difficulties. Nobody in a touch economic situation will lose their house," the prime minister said.

On the industry front, Sánchez promised that independent workers may receive subsidies if they see their workload reduced. He also appealed to business owners not to fire their employees.

8:18 p.m. ET, March 17, 2020

NASA orders all employees to telework until further notice

NASA announced tonight that effective immediately all employees and contractors will telework until further notice after “a limited number of employees have tested positive” for coronavirus.

“Although a limited amount of employees have tested positive for COVID-19, it is imperative that we take this pre-emptive step to thwart further spreading of the virus among the workforce and our communities,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said in a statement.

Mission-essential personnel will continue to be granted access onsite.

8:16 p.m. ET, March 17, 2020

6.1 million students out of school in California

From CNN's Sarah Moon

California Gov. Gavin Newsom, speaking at a news conference Tuesday, said 6.1 million students are out of school statewide due to closures over coronavirus concerns.

According to Newsom, 98.8% of schools are closed.

He went on to say don't expect schools to open up in a few weeks.

7:53 p.m. ET, March 17, 2020

ICE to temporarily reschedule appointments of immigrants who are not in detention, memo says

From CNN's Priscilla Alvarez

US Immigration and Customs Enforcement notified congressional staffers Tuesday that it will temporarily reschedule in-person appointments of immigrants who are not in detention and allow those recently released from the southern border to check in at 60 days, instead of 30 days, according to a memo obtained by CNN. 

ICE also reiterated in its memo to staffers that the agency “does not conduct operations at medical facilities, except under extraordinary circumstances.”