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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10:44 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." 

10:43 p.m. ET, March 17, 2020

Hawaii governor asks visitors to postpone their vacations

Gov. David Ige speaks to reporters at the state Department of Health's laboratory in Pearl City, Hawaii on March 3.
Gov. David Ige speaks to reporters at the state Department of Health's laboratory in Pearl City, Hawaii on March 3. Audrey McAvoy/AP

A US state heavily dependent on tourism dollars is making the extraordinary request for visitors to stay away due to the coronavirus. 

Speaking at a news conference in Honolulu on Tuesday, Hawaii Gov. David Ige said, “I am strongly encouraging our guests to postpone their vacations for at least the next 30 days and reschedule it for a later date.”

Ige said additional steps are coming, as they will screen all passengers disembarking from cruise ships starting Friday. Physicians will check the temperature of each passenger and conduct interviews about their health. Ige said they intend to do the same screenings for airport arrivals as soon as possible.

The state is banning table service at restaurants, and the governor said all bars and clubs will be closed. Additionally, all gatherings of more than 10 people are prohibited, including worship services.

10:19 p.m. ET, March 17, 2020

Bolivia closes border to curb coronavirus spread

From CNN’s Abel Alvarado and Jackie Castillo in Atlanta

Bolivia’s borders will be closed due to the ongoing threat of coronavirus, Interim President Jeanine Áñez announced in a statement released by her office on Tuesday.

Effective Thursday, only Bolivian citizens and residents may enter the country, the statement said. Travelers entering the country must follow protocols implemented by the Ministry of Health and the World Health Organization.

International and national flights will be suspended starting Friday, the statement said. The transportation of goods will still be allowed into Bolivia.

In addition to border closures, work days will be shortened and markets will open for limited hours. The measures will be in place until March 31.

10:16 p.m. ET, March 17, 2020

Spanish prime minister announces $220 billion aid package to soften economic blow of pandemic

From CNN's Mia Alberti in Lisbon

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez talks to journalists after a coronavirus-related press conference at the Moncloa palace in Madrid, on March 10.
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez talks to journalists after a coronavirus-related press conference at the Moncloa palace in Madrid, on March 10. Bernat Armangue/AP

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.

10:16 p.m. ET, March 17, 2020

Treasury Secretary warns US could see 20% unemployment rate due to coronavirus, source says

From CNN's Jeremy Diamond

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin speaks during a press briefing at the White House on March 17.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin speaks during a press briefing at the White House on March 17. Drew Angerer/Getty Images

US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin warned Republican senators Tuesday that the coronavirus pandemic could drive up US unemployment to 20%, a Republican Senate source told CNN.

Mnuchin's comments came as he urged Republican senators to act on economic stimulus measures totaling $1 trillion designed to avert that kind of worst case scenario.

In the same meeting, Mnuchin also said he is concerned the economic ramifications of the coronavirus pandemic could be worse than the 2008 financial crisis, the source said.

Mnuchin's comments, which were first reported by Bloomberg News, come amid a rising sense of urgency at the White House and on Capitol Hill to confront the increasingly serious threat of the coronavirus pandemic — on both the public health and economic fronts.

10:15 p.m. ET, March 17, 2020

NASA orders all employees to telework until further notice

Rocket Park is seen at at Space Center Houston on July 20, 2019, in Houston, Texas.
Rocket Park is seen at at Space Center Houston on July 20, 2019, in Houston, Texas. Loren Elliott/AFP/Getty Images

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.