March 19 coronavirus news

By Jessie Yeung, Helen Regan, Adam Renton, Emma Reynolds and Fernando Alfonso III, CNN

Updated 10:42 p.m. ET, March 19, 2020
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11:04 a.m. ET, March 19, 2020

Navy hospital ship USNS Mercy expected to sail to Seattle

From CNN's Barbara Starr

The USNS Mercy is seen docked at Naval Base San Diego Wednesday, March 18, 2020.
The USNS Mercy is seen docked at Naval Base San Diego Wednesday, March 18, 2020. Gregory Bull/AP

The USNS Mercy hospital ship is now expected to head to the Seattle area in the next five to 10 days, according to a defense official.

“That is the expectation,” the official said.

The final destination could always change depending on civilian needs, the official cautioned.

The other ship, the USNS Comfort, is still weeks away from being deployed to New York. 

"The Comfort, which is on the East Coast, should be ready in a couple weeks,” Secretary of Defense Mark Esper told CNN’s Jake Tapper on Wednesday.

Esper made also made clear to CNN that the two Navy hospital ships being deployed to help respond to the coronavirus outbreak will not treat patients suffering from the virus.

10:51 a.m. ET, March 19, 2020

Coronavirus cases top 10,000 in the US

From CNN's Amanda Watts

There are at least 10,259 cases of the novel coronavirus in the United States, according to state and local health agencies, governments and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

According to the CDC there are 70 cases from repatriated citizens. According to CNN Health’s tally of US cases that are detected and tested in the United States through public health systems, there are 10,189 cases in all 50 states, Washington, DC, and other US territories, bringing the total number of coronavirus cases to 10,259. 

In total, 152 people have died. 

11:15 a.m. ET, March 19, 2020

New York governor orders 75% of workforce to work from home

From CNN's Elizabeth Joseph

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has ordered 75% of the state’s workforce to work from home.

"The numbers have gone up overnight. I am going to increase the density control today. No more than 25% of people can be in the work force," Cuomo said Thursday. "Yesterday it was 50%. We're reducing it again, except the essential services that we spoke about yesterday. That means 75% of the work force must stay at home and work from home. Again, voluntarily I'm asking all businesses to have people work from home. As a mandate, 75% of your employee base must work from home."
10:44 a.m. ET, March 19, 2020

African airlines lose $4.4 billion in revenue following the spread of coronavirus 

From CNN's Aisha Salaudeen

Multiple flights have been canceled or temporarily suspended across Africa as airlines struggle to cope with falling demand following the spread of coronavirus.

Rwanda Air, and Air Mauritius are among airlines that have suspended flights to China. Morocco has suspended all international flights to and from its territory "until further notice" and Kenya Airways also suspended flights to countries affected by the virus.

According to a report from the International Air Transport Association (IATA), as of March 11, African airlines have recorded a loss of up to $4.4 billion in revenue since the virus surfaced.

Adefunke Adeyemi, IATA's Regional Director for Advocacy and Strategic relations in Africa says passenger demand for Africa has reduced significantly. International bookings in Africa went down by 20% in March and April, while domestic bookings have fallen by about 15% in March and 25% in April, according to data from IATA.

"Not as many passengers are traveling to, from and within Africa because of the outbreak. In terms of the impact on the aviation industry, the numbers we released show Africa taking a hit in terms of revenue," Adeyemi told CNN.
10:40 a.m. ET, March 19, 2020

Federal Aviation Administration chief will self-quarantine after exposure 

From CNN's Greg Wallace

Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images/FILE
Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images/FILE

Federal Aviation Administration chief Stephen Dickson will self-quarantine for the next week after his recent exposure to a congressman who has since tested positive for the coronavirus, an agency official told CNN on Thursday.   

On March 11, Dickson “had a brief interaction” with Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, who has since tested positive.  

As a result, Dickson will “self-quarantine and work remotely for seven days to ensure he is symptom-free 14 days after contact with the congressman,” the official said.  

“On March 11, before a hearing at the House Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Subcommittee, FAA Administrator Steve Dickson had a brief interaction with Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart. As a result of Rep. Diaz-Balart testing positive for COVID-19, the administrator is following the recommended protocols from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and will self-quarantine and work remotely for seven days to ensure he is symptom-free 14 days after contact with the congressman," an FAA official said.
10:42 a.m. ET, March 19, 2020

Germany preparing to mobilize armed forces to support COVID-19 response

From CNN's Nadine Schmidt in Berlin 

German Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenabuer
German Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenabuer Maja Hitij/Pool/Getty Images

Germany's Defense Ministry will mobilize its armed forces and call up army reserves to support the government's efforts to cope with the coronavirus crisis, Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer said Thursday in Berlin. 

''We are preparing for a worst-case scenario where a very large number of people will become infected and we have the human resources to help," Kramp-Karrenbauer said during a press briefing, adding that the capabilities of the army reserves should be used sensibly.

"This will be important, especially if the crisis lasts longer," she added. 

In her statement to the press, the German defense minister assured citizens that they will be able to rely upon the armed forces over the course of the COVID-19 crisis.

"The fight against the virus is a marathon," Kramp-Karrenbauer said. 

10:32 a.m. ET, March 19, 2020

Trump administration promises to buy 30 million barrels of crude to aid oil industry

From CNN’s Matt Egan

The Energy Department promised Thursday to support US oil producers facing "potentially catastrophic losses" by quickly purchasing 30 million barrels of crude.

Those barrels, purchased at dirt-cheap prices, will be used to start filling up America's emergency oil stockpile, known as the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, or SPR.

The initial purchase will be focused on small and midsize US oil producers, the group most at risk from the oil crash to $20 a barrel.

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said he will recommend to President Trump that he request funding from Congress to buy even more crude — enough to fill up the SPR.

"At $22 for WTI crude, we should be filling up the reserve for the next 10 years," Mnuchin said on Fox Business Thursday morning.

Mnuchin said the oil market has "nothing to do with the coronavirus, other than there's just a lot less demand."

That's not exactly right: The demand destruction, caused by mass cancellations of flights and widespread factory shutdowns, is a major driver of the oil crash.

The other huge problem: Saudi Arabia and Russia are flooding the market with too much supply in a bid to crowd out high-cost US producers.

10:23 a.m. ET, March 19, 2020

UK government tries to calm fears surrounding London lockdown

Analysis from CNN’s Luke McGee in London

Pedestrians cross a quiet Millennium Footbridge across the River Thames in London in the mid-morning on Tuesday, March 17.
Pedestrians cross a quiet Millennium Footbridge across the River Thames in London in the mid-morning on Tuesday, March 17. Justin Tallis/AFP/Getty Images

The United Kingdom's communications team went into overdrive on Thursday in an attempt to play down fears of a lockdown in London. 

Reports of the imminent imposition of tighter restrictions in the capital gained steam after Prime Minister Boris Johnson, at a press conference on Wednesday night, repeatedly refused to deny that such measures were being considered. 

“We will rule nothing out and we will certainly wish to consider bringing forward further and faster measures where that is necessary,” Johnson said.

Multiple government sources told CNN on Wednesday that serious conversations about restricting travel in and out of the capital and limiting the city's transport network were taking place at the highest levels of government. 

However, on Thursday morning, the prime minister's official spokesperson told journalists that there was "zero prospect" of travel restrictions and that the government has "no plans" to shut down the London's transport network. 

Some context: It's worth remembering that until recently, the closure of schools was not something the government was considering, and that as recently as two weeks ago, the scientific evidence didn't support stopping mass gatherings such as concerts or music events. 

However, British schools will close their gates at the end of this week and as of Monday, mass gatherings will not be supported by emergency workers. 

Music festivals have been canceled, West End theaters shuttered and cultural life in the UK is winding down. London’s transport authority closed 40 Tube stations on Thursday and reduced the service frequency on most lines, ostensibly to maintain a baseline service.

10:18 a.m. ET, March 19, 2020

Second coronavirus-related death reported in Connecticut

From CNN’s Ganesh Setty

A 91-year-old man in Connecticut has died “due to complications from COVID-19,” Gov. Ned Lamont tweeted Thursday morning.

The man – a New Canaan resident who was being treated at Norwalk Hospital – is the second reported death in Connecticut.

“Our hearts are with his family and friends at this difficult time,” Lamont tweeted.