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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1:12 p.m. ET, March 18, 2020

Trump says airline industry is "number one" in terms of needing monetary relief

President Trump discussed the devastating effect coronavirus has had against the airline industry and how the US is engaged in "war" against this pandemic.

"Well, there are certain industries that people know. I mean, airlines would be number one, if you look at what's going on. They go from having the best year they've ever had to having no passengers because of what we've had to do in order to win this war. It's a war. So you know, basically, what many of the industries are. What we want to do is we want to make sure they all stay together so that after the war is won, we can immediately go right back up to where we were and even beyond," Trump said.

An industry in peril: Global airlines stand to lose $113 billion in sales if the coronavirus continues to spread, according to the International Air Transport Association.

The losses would be similar to those experienced by the aviation industry during the global financial crisis of 2008, IATA warned as it dramatically increased its estimate of the damage caused by the outbreak. It said airlines could lose 19% of their business if the virus isn't contained soon.

Hear the moment:

1:08 p.m. ET, March 18, 2020

Trump: Young people are "feeling invincible," but should "heed the advice"

From CNN's Betsy Klein

President Trump was asked about Dr. Deborah Birx's warning regarding millennial coronavirus and his message to many of his own young, conservative supporters who may be heeding his earlier advice downplaying the seriousness of coronavirus. 

He claimed his earlier comments were “to be calm.”

“I do want people to be calm,” he said.

But, he added, “I hope they just listen to what we’ve been saying over the last period of time. We don’t want them gathering, and I see that they do gather including on beaches, and including in restaurants, young people. They don’t realize that — they’re feeling invincible, I don’t know if you felt invincible when you were young. But they don’t realize that they could be carrying lots of bad things home to their grandmother and grandfather and even their parents,” he said.

He continued, “So we want them to heed the advice… and I do believe it’s getting through.”

Asked again about those who aren’t following that advice, he reiterated, “Heed the advice, heed the advice, I just said.”

1:03 p.m. ET, March 18, 2020

Trump confirms planning to block asylum seekers at southern border

From CNN's Kevin Liptak

Evan Vucci/AP
Evan Vucci/AP

President Trump confirmed he's planning to bar asylum seekers and other undocumented immigrants from crossing the US southern border in a bid to to prevent spread of coronavirus. 

"The answer's yes," Trump said when asked if he was planning to take that step, which he said would come "very soon, probably today."

CNN reported on Tuesday that officials are working on a plan to deny entry to all asylum seekers. That may include a plan to return all illegal border crossers without due process.

Trump said he wasn't planning to close the southern border but "we are invoking a certain provision that will allow us great latitude as to what we do."

Asked about his closure of the US northern border to all but essential travel, he defined "essential" as "medical" and other areas.

"We have military working together. We have industry working together. And again, it's not affecting trade. So, things like that," he said.

1:01 p.m. ET, March 18, 2020

Stock trading has been halted

From CNN's Anneken Tappe

The New York Stock Exchange has halted stock trading for 15 minutes after the S&P 500 fell 7% on Wednesday afternoon

1:01 p.m. ET, March 18, 2020

Trump can't say why professional athletes have access to coronavirus testing

From CNN's Betsy Klein

Evan Vucci/AP
Evan Vucci/AP

President Trump wasn’t able to say when asked Wednesday why many non-symptomatic professional athletes have had access to coronavirus testing while many sick Americans don’t.

“You'd have to ask them that question,” Trump said.

“Should that happen?” the reporter followed up 

Trump responded, “No, I wouldn’t say so, but perhaps that’s been the story of life.”

12:59 p.m. ET, March 18, 2020

World Health Organization study underway to test and compare coronavirus treatment approaches

From CNN Health's Jacqueline Howard

The World Health Organization announced in a press briefing in Geneva on Wednesday that it has organized a study to examine various untested coronavirus treatments. 

"WHO and its partners are therefore organizing a study in many countries in which some of these untested treatments are compared with each other," WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said during the briefing. "This large, international study is designed to generate the robust data we need, to show which treatments are the most effective."

Tedros added: "We have called this study the SOLIDARITY trial. The SOLIDARITY trial provides simplified procedures to enable even hospitals that have been overloaded to participate. Many countries have already confirmed that they will join the SOLIDARITY trial — Argentina, Bahrain, Canada, France, Iran, Norway, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland and Thailand — and I trust many more will join."

12:59 p.m. ET, March 18, 2020

Dow erases all its gains since Trump took office

From CNN’s Anneken Tappe

The Trump stock rally, which at its peak a month ago was robust and seemingly unending, has completely evaporated.

The Dow briefly fell more than 1,500 points on Tuesday, bringing the index below 19,732 points. That was the Dow's closing level on January 19, 2017, the day before Trump took office.

The S&P 500 is still above its Trump inauguration level, but it is moving closer to wiping out all of Trump's stock market gains as well. The index, which is the broadest measure of Wall Street, was down 6.3% in the early afternoon on Tuesday.

Global equities have been hit hard by the worries about the economic fallout from the coronavirus outbreak, which has by now infected more than 7,000 people in the United States.

Economists predict recessions for both individual countries and the world economy this year as the pandemic dealt both a supply and demand shock to commerce. That said, expectations for a sharp rebound for the economy and the stock market towards the second half of the year are high.

1:03 p.m. ET, March 18, 2020

Trump on ventilator shortage: "Nobody ever thought of these numbers"

From CNN's Betsy Klein and Kaitlan Collins

Evan Vucci/AP
Evan Vucci/AP

President Trump was pressed Wednesday by CNN’s Kaitlan Collins on the ventilator shortage at the nation’s hospitals.

“Hospitals are still supposed to have ventilators too, and when we have thousands of ventilators, it sounds like a lot. But this is a very unforeseen thing, nobody ever thought of these numbers. Nobody saw numbers like this even with regard to testing, normally we wouldn’t be doing testing and they decided to do it. Very, very hard to ramp up. Now we’re getting highly sophisticated tests and it’s going very well,” he said. 

Asked why it took so long if the US knew it needed more ventilators, he said, “Well we knew – it depends, it depends on how it goes, worst case, absolutely, best case, not at all. So we’re going to have to see where it goes. But we are ordering thousands and thousands of ventilators and they’re complex. These are complex machines.”

Trump asked Vice President Mike Pence how many ventilators the US has.

“We have a specific number of ventilators in the stockpile. It’s in excess of 10,000. And you just heard the announcement from the Department of Defense, they’ll be adding several more thousand to that,” he said, adding that that number doesn’t count all of the ventilators that exist in the marketplace and in healthcare facilities around the country. 

Pence went on to praise the “tremendous spirit” among industry leaders who are “ready to step in and add to that volume.

Hear what was said:

1:04 p.m. ET, March 18, 2020

Italy's sport minister says government will consider banning all outdoor sports activities

From CNN's Sharon Braithwaite in London

Italian Sport Minister Vincenzo Spadafora said Wednesday that if people will not stay at home, in compliance with the coronavirus emergency measures, the government will be forced to "ban outdoor sports activities."

"I believe that in the next few hours it will be necessary to consider the possibility of a complete ban also on outdoor activities," Spadafora said.

He added that the general consensus was to stay at home but "if people will not follow it, we will be forced to place an absolute ban," Spadafora said.

Spadafora made the announcement on Italian State television RAI 1.  

The "Cure Italy" (Cura Italia) decree passed this week by the government and "suspended all tax obligations until 30 May for all sports federations and sports activities" and "suspended the rents of all those structures owned by the State and municipalities where sports activities are held," according to the decree. 

Spadafora also indicated that Seria A soccer league will possibly resume on May 3. 

"This is what we hope for. We will evaluate whether with open or closed doors, this will depend on the situation," Spadafora said.