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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4:35 p.m. ET, March 19, 2020

Verizon CEO says the US network can handle coronavirus-related web traffic

From CNN Business' Clare Duffy

Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg
Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg CNN

In a matter of days, mass numbers of workers, students and businesses have increased their use of the internet to work, communicate and stay entertained as coronavirus spreads. Netflix said Thursday it will reduce streaming quality in Europe to keep the internet from collapsing under the strain of unprecedented usage.

But Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg said he's not concerned about the US network's ability to handle the traffic.

“So far (we’re seeing) no congestion in the network, we can handle that, we have built a very robust network," Vestberg told CNN's Richard Quest Thursday.

The company has noted a shift in the types of applications relying on the network: gaming is up 75% from the prior week, web traffic is up 20%, VPN usage is up 30% and streaming is up 10%.

In less than one week, 100,000 of Verizon's 135,000 global employees have shifted to remote working arrangements, but Vestberg said the company remains focused on network up-keep.

“We still have field engineers in the market keeping the network up ... We need to keep these networks up because they are so important in this critical moment and this crisis right now,” he said.

4:31 p.m. ET, March 19, 2020

Stocks finish higher on Thursday

From CNN’s Anneken Tappe

NYSE Photo by Alyssa Ringler via AP
NYSE Photo by Alyssa Ringler via AP

US stocks closed higher on Thursday, eking out steady gains in the afternoon following a morning of volatile trading. 

The Dow swung more than 1,200 points from its low to its high point. It finished up nearly 1%, or 188 points. It was the first time since March 6 that the index closed within 1,000 points from when it opened.

The S&P 500 closed up 0.5%, also by far its most modest finish since the start of the month.

The Nasdaq Composite, which was the best performer of the day, ended up 2.3%.

As stocks settle after the trading day, levels might still change slightly.

4:19 p.m. ET, March 19, 2020

Three more people have died in Illinois from coronavirus

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced three additional deaths during a news conference Thursday afternoon. 

"We offer them our collective strength at this time. May their memories be for a blessing," Pritzer said, addressing the families of the victims.

The addition of these three deaths brings the Illinois state death total to four, according to CNN's counting. 

4:50 p.m. ET, March 19, 2020

Photo shows "corona" crossed out and replaced with "Chinese" in Trump's briefing notes

Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images
Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images

President Trump's notes from Thursday's coronavirus briefing show someone crossed out the word “Corona” in coronavirus and replaced it with the word “Chinese.” 

This picture captured by Washington Post Photographer Jabin Botsford, comes as Trump has stepped up his efforts to scapegoat China for the spread of the coronavirus. 

The change in tone from the White House comes as the number of cases in the US rises on a daily basis, and despite Trump initially praising China's President Xi Jinping for his handling of the crisis. 

After consulting with medical experts and receiving guidance from the World Health Organization, CNN has determined that the term “Chinese virus” is both inaccurate and considered stigmatizing.  

Some background: CNN previously reported that a prominent Chinese official has promoted a conspiracy theory that the US military could have brought the novel coronavirus to China — and it did not originate in the Chinese city of Wuhan.

Parts of Chinese social media, and even the country's government, appear to have launched a concerted campaign to question the origin of the novel coronavirus, which has infected more than 170,000 people globally as of Tuesday midday, according to CNN's case tracker.

The first reported cases of the virus were in Wuhan, and scenes from the city on lockdown shocked the world. The lockdown gave an early indication for how seriously global authorities would need to combat the fast-spreading virus.

"Viruses know no borders and they don't care about your ethnicity or the color of your skin or how much money you have in the bank," said Dr. Mike Ryan, executive director of the World Health Organization health emergencies program. "It's really important that we be careful in the language we use."

4:09 p.m. ET, March 19, 2020

Cannes Festival postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic

From Barbara Wojazer in Paris

Quentin Tarantino and Daniella Tarantino attend the closing ceremony screening of "The Specials" during the 72nd annual Cannes Film Festival on May 25, 2019,
Quentin Tarantino and Daniella Tarantino attend the closing ceremony screening of "The Specials" during the 72nd annual Cannes Film Festival on May 25, 2019, Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images

The Festival de Cannes has been postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic, the organizers tweeted Thursday

The film festival's organizers added that “several options are considered in order to preserve its running, the main one being simple postponement, in Cannes, until the end of June-beginning of July, 2020."

The festival was originally planned for May 12-13.


3:52 p.m. ET, March 19, 2020

Pentagon not being asked to arrange flights for stranded Americans despite Trump claim

From CNN's Barbara Starr

The Pentagon has not received a request from the State Department at this point to operate flights that would be used to fly Americans currently stranded overseas back to the United States, two defense officials tell CNN. 

President Trump indicated on Thursday that such planning was already in place for a group of Americans in Peru who are unable to arrange flights home amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“We're trying to get them out. And, you know, they got caught. They were late with their flights. We gave them a period of time. They didn't make it, but we're looking to get them out with military, probably through the military,” Trump said during a news conference Thursday at the White House.
3:54 p.m. ET, March 19, 2020

Top military health official says military labs have not been asked to test civilians

From CNN's Ryan Browne

Days after Secretary of Defense Mark Esper announced that the Defense Department would use its labs to help conduct coronavirus testing for civilians, a top military medical official said that the military had not yet been asked to do that.

”The department has made our 14 certified coronavirus testing labs available to test non-DOD personnel as well, and we will soon offer two additional labs for that purpose. We hope this will provide excess capacity to the civilian population,” Esper said Tuesday.

Esper repeated this at the White House press conference on Wednesday.

But on Thursday, Army Lt. Gen. Ronald Place, the director of the Defense Health Agency, said “at this time we are only testing DOD present we have not been asked to add our laboratories to the myriad labs across the country that have that capability.”

Place added “we are far from being overwhelmed in our laboratories and have the capability to do way more than that.”

Some context: Earlier Thursday, the Pentagon said the Defense Department “currently has 15 labs with 40 test kits available” with a daily capacity of 9,096 tests/day. 

It said that 1,574 patients had been tested and that “an additional lab is being prepared at Armed Forces Research Institute of Medical Services in Thailand."

3:51 p.m. ET, March 19, 2020

French coronavirus cases top 10,000

From CNN’s Barbara Wojazer in Paris

This photo provided by the French Army shows military doctors and rescue workers pulling a patient out of an ambulance in Mulhouse, eastern France, a region hardly hit by the coronavirus pandemic, before flying to southern France Wednesday, March 18.
This photo provided by the French Army shows military doctors and rescue workers pulling a patient out of an ambulance in Mulhouse, eastern France, a region hardly hit by the coronavirus pandemic, before flying to southern France Wednesday, March 18. Olivier Fabre/DICOD via AP

There are now 10,995 cases of COVID-19 in France, Jerome Salomon, the director of the French health agency, said on Thursday. 

Salomon urged French citizens to respect lockdown measures imposed by the French government. 

5:01 p.m. ET, March 19, 2020

State Department issues worldwide "Do Not Travel" advisory

From CNN's Jennifer Hansler

Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images
Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

The US State Department on Thursday issued a worldwide Level 4: Do Not Travel Advisory due the coronavirus pandemic. 

“The Department of State advises US citizens to avoid all international travel due to the global impact of COVID-19,” the updated advisory said. “In countries where commercial departure options remain available, US citizens who live in the United States should arrange for immediate return to the United States, unless they are prepared to remain abroad for an indefinite period."

The advisory added: "US citizens who live abroad should avoid all international travel. Many countries are experiencing COVID-19 outbreaks and implementing travel restrictions and mandatory quarantines, closing borders, and prohibiting non-citizens from entry with little advance notice.”

Read the full advisory here.Watch: