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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1:42 p.m. ET, March 18, 2020

Big 3 automakers to temporarily close all US plants due to the coronavirus outbreak

From CNN’s Vanessa Yurkevich

Workers assemble cars at the newly renovated Ford's Assembly Plant in Chicago, June 24, 2019.
Workers assemble cars at the newly renovated Ford's Assembly Plant in Chicago, June 24, 2019. Jim Young/AFP/Getty Images/FILE

America’s top automakers including Ford, Chrysler, and General Motors, will temporarily close all US plants due to the coronavirus outbreak, according a source familiar with the discussion. 

Vice President of communications at Ford Mark Truby tweeted on Wednesday that Ford will temporarily suspend production following Thursday evening shifts.

1:35 p.m. ET, March 18, 2020

UK coronavirus death toll rises to 104

From Livvy Doherty and Sarah Dean in London

The United Kingdom coronavirus death toll has risen to 104 – in what is the biggest daily jump in deaths so far, according to National Health Service England.

On Wednesday, an additional 32 people, who tested positive for coronavirus, have died, bringing the total number of confirmed reported deaths in England to 99.

In Scotland, three people with coronavirus have died; in Wales, two people died from the disease. These deaths bring the UK total to 104.

Across the UK, the total number of coronavirus cases is now 2,626.

1:35 p.m. ET, March 18, 2020

Internal Delta memo: Airline to "hit the pause button" on some operations

From CNN's Greg Wallace and Kylie Atwood

Bruce Bennett/Getty Images/FILE
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images/FILE

Delta needs to “essentially hit the ‘pause button’” on some of its operations, CEO Ed Bastian told employees in a memo Wednesday, making further major cuts to its operations that include parking more than half of its aircraft. 

The company’s cuts include cutting back 70% of its capacity, further pay cuts for executives and company leadership, as well as paring back its operations in airports around the country – including its major hub in Atlanta.  

“With fewer customers flying, we need less space in airports,” Bastian wrote. “Among other initiatives, we will temporarily consolidate airport facilities in Atlanta and other locations as necessary and close the majority of our Delta Sky Clubs until demand recovers.”

“We are reducing our active fleet size by parking at least half of our fleet – more than 600 aircraft,” he wrote, as well as retiring older planes. 

He also said “roughly 10,000” employees have volunteered to take leaves of absence. 

Bastian did not announce any layoffs, but he did not count out the possibility.

“I know everyone is concerned about the security of your jobs and pay. Given the uncertainty about the duration of this crisis, we are not yet at a point to make any decisions," Bastian wrote.

Some context: Bastian's message followed a telephone call he and executives at other US airlines held with President Trump to discuss the state of the industry and its request for billions of dollars of government financial assistance.  

Bastian said the discussions have been "constructive."


1:32 p.m. ET, March 18, 2020

UK will close all schools starting Friday

From CNN's Richard Greene and Sarah Dean

The United Kingdom's Education Secretary has announced that all schools have been closed until further notice starting Friday.

After UK schools close on Friday afternoon, they will remain closed for most students, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in his daily coronavirus news conference Wednesday.

The students who will be allowed to go to school will be the children of key workers, whose parents still need to go to work.

“For many parents these steps will be frustrating… that’s why we are now working on further measures… to keep our economy going,” Johnson said.

He warned children should not be left with older relatives who may fall into the vulnerable groups.

1:19 p.m. ET, March 18, 2020

First cases of coronavirus in the federal prison system identified

From CNN's David Shortell

Two federal Bureau of Prisons employees have tested positive for coronavirus, according to Sue Allison, an agency spokesperson.

The tests came back in the past 24 hours and represent the first known cases of the virus in the federal prison system, according to the BOP. No inmates have yet tested positive. 

One staffer worked at a medium security prison in Berlin, New Hampshire. The other worked at an administrative facility in Grand Prairie, Texas, according to Allison. Their identities and positions were not provided. 

The BOP has notified local health officials and is doing a risk assessment internally to determine who might have been exposed to the infected workers, Allison said. 



1:16 p.m. ET, March 18, 2020

Stock trading has resumed

From CNN's Richard Davis

Stocks resumed trading at 1:11 p.m. ET, after the New York Stock Exchange halted activity for 15 minutes following a 7% drop in the S&P 500.

The S&P was down 7.2% upon the reopen.

The Dow fell 8.1%, or 1,710 points. The Nasdaq Composite was down 6.5%.

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.