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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12:39 p.m. ET, March 18, 2020

Pence announces regulation on doctors practicing across state lines

From CNN's Betsy Klein 

Evan Vucci/AP
Evan Vucci/AP

Vice President Mike Pence announced Wednesday that the Department of Health and Human Services is issuing a regulation to permit doctors to practice across state lines.

Pence also pleaded with hospitals and Americans to delay elective procedures as the outbreak spreads and hospitals face shortages of resources.

“With regard to medical personnel, at the President’s direction, HHS is issuing a regulation today that will allow all doctors and medical professionals to practice across state lines to meet the needs of hospitals that may arise in adjoining areas,” he said.

Pence added: “In addition to that, we are asking every American and our medical community leaders and hospitals to partner with us in delaying elective procedures across the country in our healthcare system to ensure that medical supplies and medical capacities go where they’re needed most.”

Hear the full announcement:

12:30 p.m. ET, March 18, 2020

Trump says HUD suspending foreclosures and evictions

From CNN's Kevin Liptak

Evan Vucci/AP
Evan Vucci/AP

President Trump said his administration will suspend foreclosures and evictions on homeowners at least until the end of next month.

Speaking at the White House, Trump said the move from the Department of Housing and Urban Development would provide relief during the coronavirus outbreak.

“The Department of Housing and Urban Development is providing immediate relief to renters and homeowners by suspending all foreclosures and evictions until the end of April,” Trump said.

Hear the full announcement:

12:23 p.m. ET, March 18, 2020

Trump suggests he'll hold a second news conference on FDA

From CNN's Besty Klein, Maegan Vazquez, and Kaitlan Collins

Evan Vucci/AP
Evan Vucci/AP

President Trump said Wednesday afternoon that he may hold a second press conference Wednesday or Thursday about “exciting” Food and Drug Administration developments, declining to specify what those developments are.

“We are looking at looking at some very exciting things and I am going to be holding a second news conference either today. We’re going to talk about the FDA – some things that are happening that are quite exciting, and we’re going to be doing that either later today or tomorrow, fairly early tomorrow so we’ll see what happens,” he said.

He continued: “The FDA, at my instruction, has been working very, very hard on a number of developments and we’ll be discussing them with you later today or tomorrow.”

12:27 p.m. ET, March 18, 2020

Hotel industry group lobbies for government assistance during coronavirus crisis

From CNN’s Aaron Cooper

A hotel industry group says hotel rooms are more than 80% empty in four US cities. 

The American Hotel & Lodging Association said Seattle, San Francisco, Austin and Boston occupancy rates are below 20%. 

The group is lobbying for government assistance, including increased liquidity and low interest loans. 

Based on their current occupancy, the AHLA estimates nearly four million jobs have been eliminated or will be eliminated in the next few weeks.  

“The impact to our industry is already more severe than anything we’ve seen before, including September 11th and the great recession of 2008 combined,” Chip Rogers, AHLA president and CEO, said in the group's statement.
12:18 p.m. ET, March 18, 2020

Hospital ships preparing to deploy, but could still take a few weeks to arrive in New York

From CNN's Barbara Starr

The US Naval Hospital Ship Comfort sits docked at the Port of Miami in Miami, Florida on June 18, 2019.
The US Naval Hospital Ship Comfort sits docked at the Port of Miami in Miami, Florida on June 18, 2019. Rhona Wise/AFP/Getty Images

The US Navy hospital USNS Comfort could still be a “few weeks” away from arriving in New York, a US defense official tells CNN.

Both Navy hospital ships have “prepare to deploy” orders, two defense officials said. President Trump said Wednesday they’d launch in the next week or so. 

Both ships will start getting ready, with crew and medical staff. 

It is expected at this point the medical staff will be trauma care specialists, at least to begin with, so their presence can free up bed space in New York City hospitals. They will try for all due speed to get there, the officials said. 

12:20 p.m. ET, March 18, 2020

Trump invoking Defense Production Act

From CNN's Maegan Vazquez, Betsy Klein, and Kaitlan Collins 

Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Imges
Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Imges

President Trump said during Wednesday’s White House press briefing that he will be invoking the Defense Production Act.

“Right after we finish this conference, I’ll be signing it and it’s prepared to go,” Trump said.

CNN reported last month that the Trump administration was considering using the 1950 wartime law to expand the production of masks and protective gear to prevent the spread of the virus.

12:14 p.m. ET, March 18, 2020

Trump: Hospital ships being sent to NY Harbor and West Coast

President Trump just confirmed a statement made earlier today by Gov. Andrew Cuomo that the federal government will be deploying a US Navy ship to New York City to help with hospital capacity.

Trump added that an additional ship will be deployed to a yet to be determined location on the West Coast as well.

"They are being prepared right now. They're massive ships. They are the big, white ships with the Red Cross on the sides," Trump said about the ships, speaking at a press conference with his White House coronavirus task force.

12:26 p.m. ET, March 18, 2020

Trump says "FEMA is activated in every region" as coronavirus challenges rise


President Trump announced Wednesday afternoon that the Federal Emergency Management Agency has been activate across the country as it continues to fight the coronavirus.

"Today, FEMA is activated in every region. We are at level one, level one being the highest level which we will work with, and we've been working with FEMA. I've done a lot of work with FEMA. They're incredible. It's always been on hurricanes or tornadoes," Trump said moments ago from the White House.

Trump added: "This is a very different kind of a work for FEMA, but they will come through as they always do. We have tremendous people, tremendous talent in FEMA."

Watch the moment:

12:09 p.m. ET, March 18, 2020

McConnell announces vote on final passage of House bill this afternoon

From CNN's Manu Raju

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced that the US Senate will vote on the House bill in the 2 p.m. ET, and 60 votes will be required for passage.

It is expected to pass. That vote will occur immediately after votes on two amendments — one from Sen. Patty Murray and one from Sen. Ron Johnson — both of which are expected to fail.

The Senate is voting momentarily on an amendment from Sen. Rand Paul to offset the costs of the House package. The Paul amendment is also expected to fail.