March 18 coronavirus news

By Jessie Yeung, Helen Regan, Steve George, Angela Dewan and Fernando Alfonso III, CNN

Updated 9:37 p.m. ET, March 18, 2020
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5:42 p.m. ET, March 18, 2020

American Farm Bureau: "US farms and ranches could face a serious labor shortage"

From CNN’s Vanessa Yurkevich

The American Farm Bureau is raising concern over potential labor and supply chain issues as the State Department announced it is suspending immigrant and nonimmigrant visas out of their US embassies across Mexico.

“We are hearing reports from around the country from our members about specific issues that challenge their ability to put food on America’s tables,” wrote American Farm Bureau President Zippy Duvall in letter sent to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue.

H2A seasonal workers make up about 250,000 of the farming workforce – with about 93% coming from Mexico.

With the closure of the US Embassy’s, those visas are not being processed. US farms and ranches could face a serious labor shortage at a critical time for planting and harvesting crops essential to the domestic food supply, the American Farm Bureau said in a statement.

“This is a critical matter for U.S. farmers and ranchers,” writes Duvall in the letter. “More than a quarter-million individuals participate in the H-2A program and help to sustain U.S. farms and ranches. We urge the Administration to find an appropriate mechanism, either through an emergency waiver or some other means, to ensure that H-2A workers may continue to safely come to America’s farms and ranches.”

USDA acknowledges this concern and is actively speaking to the state department to minimize impact.

2:34 p.m. ET, March 18, 2020

Professional tennis now suspended into June

From CNN's David Close

Both the men's and women's professional tennis tours have announced that their seasons will be suspended until June 7.

The Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) and Women's Tennis Association (WTA) released a joint statement outlining the upcoming tournaments and highlighted that both tours plan to pick back up starting June 8.

Additionally, the player rankings will be frozen indefinitely. Currently, Novak Djokovic and Ashleigh Barty top the singles rankings. 

Aligning with the ATP and WTA, the International Tennis Federation also announced the suspension of tournament play.

2:25 p.m. ET, March 18, 2020

Missouri governor anticipates health officials will test up to 10,000 people a day in April

From CNN's Melissa Alonso

KFVS
KFVS

Missouri Gov. Mike Parsons expects health officials will be able to process 7,000 to 10,000 COVID-19 tests a day starting in April, including private testing, he said at a news briefing on Wednesday. 

Officials expect positive tests "to climb," with the increase in testing, Parsons said. 

Parsons addressed questions regarding his decision to leave closures of schools, restaurants and businesses to local officials and business owners.

If businesses close or remain open, "it's up to the private sector," Parsons said. 

Some small school districts don't have daycare facilities separate from K-12 schools but the large majority of districts have already decided to close, according to Parsons. 

2:19 p.m. ET, March 18, 2020

US Census suspending field operations for two weeks

From CNN's Ross Levitt

The US Census Bureau says it is suspending field operations for two weeks due to the coronavirus outbreak.

During that time, it says it will evaluate all of its operations. 

2:02 p.m. ET, March 18, 2020

California reports its 15th coronavirus-related death

From CNN's Cheri Mossburg

A man died in Santa Clara County from novel coronavirus, according to a statement from the public health department.

This is the sixth death in Santa Clara County and the 15th in California.

More data: In the US, at least 120 people have died as a result of COVID-19.

The number of cases in California currently stands at 612.

Santa Clara County has five new coronavirus cases, and another eight have been confirmed in San Francisco. No details of the severity or transmission have been provided.

“We caution the media and the public from relying too heavily on confirmed case count as an indicator of the situation in San Francisco,” the city’s Department of Emergency Management warned.
2:09 p.m. ET, March 18, 2020

Two top Senate Republicans say chamber will need until next week to pass coronavirus stimulus bill

From CNN's Ted Barrett

Sen. John Cornyn, left, and Sen. John Thune
Sen. John Cornyn, left, and Sen. John Thune Getty Images

The Senate won’t be able to complete action on the $1 trillion coronavirus stimulus package before next week and will work through the weekend to try to hammer out a deal with Democrats, two Senate Republican leaders said Wednesday.

Asked if the Senate could pass a bill as early as Thursday – an ambitious time frame some GOP senators said they hoped to meet – Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, was dubious it could be done that quickly. 

“I think it’s going to take a little longer than that. I would say early next week. We will get the first bill done today. The President will sign it. And then we’ll turn our full attention to the next install,” Cornyn said. 

Sen. John Thune, the Republican Whip, agreed.

“We’re trying to accelerate everything, pull it together quickly. But by the time you get into negotiations with the Democrats, it pushes it through the weekend,” Thune said. “We’ll see what happens. As you know around here, when there’s a sense of urgency things can happen more quickly.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell declined to say if he agreed it would last into next week.

Cornyn pointed to troubles House Democrats had last week when they pressed to quickly pass a coronavirus relief bill but then had to take more time to make technical corrections to the bill before sending it to the Senate, where it is set to pass Wednesday.

“Haste does make waste. I think what we saw come out of the House at 1 am Saturday, it wasn’t ready for prime time. It took them a couple of days to get it in shape and pass it. So we don’t want to make unintentional errors or mistake. But we don’t have time to dilly dally either,” Cornyn said.  

Cornyn, who said the Congress needs to be on a “war-footing” to respond to the crisis, said he’s concerned if the virus is not quelled, the Trump administration may come back with another trillion dollars request.

“What I worry about more than anything is that it’s not going to be the end. Because if this think keeps going, will the Secretary coming back and say we need another trillion? I’m a fiscal conservative and I think the federal government spends more than it brings in, and that’s a problem, but I don’t think we’re going to solve that problem now. We just need to respond to this emergency,” Cornyn said.

1:52 p.m. ET, March 18, 2020

World Health Organization official hits back at Trump for his use of the term "Chinese virus"

From CNN’s Amanda Watts and Jacqueline Howard

Dr. Mike Ryan, executive director of the World Health Organization health emergencies programme
Dr. Mike Ryan, executive director of the World Health Organization health emergencies programme World Health Organization

When asked about President Trump’s continued use of the term “Chinese virus” when referring to the novel coronavirus, Dr. Mike Ryan, executive director of the World Health Organization health emergencies programme, said WHO has been clear since the beginning of the outbreak, “Viruses know no borders and they don’t care your ethnicity or the color of your skin or how much money you have in the bank.”

Trump's latest use of the phrase happened Wednesday during a White House press briefing on the coronavirus.

“It’s really important that we be careful in the language we use,” Ryan said. "There are many different origins … the pandemic of influenza in 2009 originated in North America and we don’t call it the ‘North American flu,’ so it’s very important that we have the same approach when it comes to other viruses." 

“This is a time for solidarity, this is a time for facts, this is a time to move forward together,” Ryan said, adding, “there is no blame in this.” 

Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, World Health Organization infectious disease epidemiologist, said we’ve seen overwhelming international solidarity during this pandemic.

“We see this through donations – whether it’s through [personal protective equipment] or I’ve seen children drawing pictures for health care workers – every single one of those acts of kindness is an act of international unity and we’d like to see more of that," Van Kerkhove said.

“These are very tough times. And in many countries this is going to get a lot worse before it gets better. But this will be temporary, we will get through this and we will get though it together,” Van Kerkhove added.

2:09 p.m. ET, March 18, 2020

Italy announces biggest single-day jump in new coronavirus cases

From CNN’s Nicola Ruotolo in Rome

Italy has announced the biggest single-day jump in new coronavirus cases on Wednesday, according to the latest figures issued by Italy’s Civil Protection Agency.

The number of coronavirus cases increased by 4,207 in 24 hours. The total number of cases now stands at 35,713 as of Wednesday.

The number of coronavirus deaths increased 475 in 24 hours. The total number of cases now stands 2,978 as of Wednesday.

Watch:

 

1:45 p.m. ET, March 18, 2020

Northern Ireland schools to close starting Monday

From Peter Taggart in Belfast, Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland’s schools will close starting Monday and will potentially remain closed until the summer holidays, First Minister Arlene Foster said Wednesday.

Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom but has local control of some policy areas.