March 19 coronavirus news

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11:28 p.m. ET, March 18, 2020

The CDC suggests live-streaming funerals to reduce crowds during coronavirus pandemic

From CNN's Shelby Lin Erdman

A sign on the outside of the CDC Emergency Operations Center in Atlanta, Georgia, on Thursday, January 13.
A sign on the outside of the CDC Emergency Operations Center in Atlanta, Georgia, on Thursday, January 13. Will Lanzoni/CNN

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is encouraging live-streaming funerals as an alternative to in-person gatherings, as the pandemic sends cities and states into lockdown.

The Trump administration has urged people to avoid groups of 10 or more to reduce the spread of the coronavirus -- and the CDC offered guidance to the National Funeral Directors Association about alternatives.

“For example, if live-streaming and limiting in-person attendance to immediate family is possible, we encourage that. Additionally, promoting social distancing at the event, regardless of size, and promoting hand hygiene as well is also important,” David Berendes, an environmental epidemiologist with the CDC, said during the briefing.

“Social distancing, hand hygiene and other common sense measures would apply to those events and you may consider limiting the number of high risks individuals who are attending the event to those who are absolutely necessary,” he said.  

How to deal with the threat of infected bodies: In late February, the CDC issued guidance for funeral directors, medical examiners and pathologists on how to handle the bodies of people who have died from the coronavirus.

Funeral home workers should follow routine infection and control precautions when handling the bodies, the agency said.

There are no known risks of being in the same room as a patient who has died -- but it's such a new disease that health experts are still learning how it spreads.

“If washing the body or shrouding are important religious or cultural practices, families are encouraged to work with their community cultural and religious leaders and funeral home staff on how to reduce their exposure as much as possible," said Dr. Sarah Reagan-Steiner, a medical officer with the infectious disease pathology branch at the CDC. 

1:05 a.m. ET, March 19, 2020

The pandemic began in China. Today, it reported no new local infections for the first time

From CNN's Shanshan Wang in Beijing

A worker disinfects a room at the Red Cross hospital in Wuhan, in China's central Hubei province on March 18.
A worker disinfects a room at the Red Cross hospital in Wuhan, in China's central Hubei province on March 18. Stringer/AFP/Getty

Mainland China on Thursday reported no new locally transmitted coronavirus cases for the first time since the the pandemic began, marking a major turning point in the global battle to contain Covid-19.

The country reported 34 new cases of coronavirus yesterday -- all imported from overseas.

The milestone represents a turnaround for the Chinese government. Just last month, mainland China was reporting thousands of cases per day, and was considered the most high-risk infection area in the world.

Now, after months of lockdowns and travel restrictions affecting hundreds of millions of citizens, strict home quarantines, and an unprecedented nationwide effort, the country is down to zero reported new locally transmitted cases.

Instead, the threat is now coming from overseas. The number of cases and deaths outside China have exploded in the past two weeks, with the pandemic hitting the US and Europe particularly hard.

If China is any model to go by, these countries could have months to go before reaching zero new local transmissions.

Places like mainland China and Hong Kong are now bracing for a potential second wave of infections, as people return from overseas, bringing the virus with them.

China also reported eight new deaths yesterday, according to the National Health Commission. The country now has a total of 80,928 cases and 3,245 deaths.

11:05 p.m. ET, March 18, 2020

European Central Bank throws $818 billion at the economy to fight the coronavirus crash

From CNN's David Goldman

Christine Lagarde, President of the European Central Bank (ECB), and Vice president Luis de Guindos speak to the media following a meeting of the ECB governing board at ECB headquarters on March 12, in Frankfurt, Germany.
Christine Lagarde, President of the European Central Bank (ECB), and Vice president Luis de Guindos speak to the media following a meeting of the ECB governing board at ECB headquarters on March 12, in Frankfurt, Germany. Thomas Lohnes/Getty Images

The European Central Bank announced today a huge new money-printing program aimed at keeping the region's financial system functioning and helping the economy cope with the pandemic.

The central bank said it would spend €750 billion ($818 billion) buying government debt and private securities before the end of 2020 -- and it stands ready to do even more if necessary.

"The Governing Council is fully prepared to increase the size of its asset purchase programs and adjust their composition, by as much as necessary and for as long as needed," the ECB said in a statement.

What the program will do: That massive increase to the central bank's balance sheet, known as quantitative easing, is designed to keep the financial system liquid when investors are running scared.

Europe's central bank "will explore all options and all contingencies to support the economy through this shock," the ECB said in a statement.

Markets are plummeting: Global stocks have plunged deep into a bear market, and central banks around the world are engaging in emergency stimulus plans to bolster their economies and markets in the face of a potentially disastrous worldwide recession.

Large parts of Europe are under lockdown as the virus rampages through the region. Industries such as carmaking and aviation have almost completely shut down, while many shops, bars, restaurants and other public venues have been forced to close.

Read more here.

10:54 p.m. ET, March 18, 2020

Nicaragua announces its first case of coronavirus

From CNN's Mario Medrano in Managua

Empty streets are seen due the lack of tourists at the colonial city of Granada, Nicaragua, on March 18.
Empty streets are seen due the lack of tourists at the colonial city of Granada, Nicaragua, on March 18. Inti Ocon/AFP/Getty Images

Nicaragua's Vice President, Rosario Murillo, announced the first case of coronavirus in the country late Wednesday.

The patient is a Nicaraguan national who returned to the country after visiting Panama from March 13-14.

The patient is a 40-year-old man and is in stable condition, Murillo said.

10:43 p.m. ET, March 18, 2020

The US now has more than 8,730 coronavirus cases and close to 150 deaths

A man is swabbed as he is tested for Covid-19 as vehicles line up at the Doris Ison Health Center, Wednesday, March 18, in Miami.
A man is swabbed as he is tested for Covid-19 as vehicles line up at the Doris Ison Health Center, Wednesday, March 18, in Miami. Lynne Sladky/AP

The United States now has at least 8,736 cases of the coronavirus and 149 deaths, according to state and local health authorities and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

70 cases are repatriated citizens, like those evacuated from the Diamond Princess cruise ship or from China.

8,666 cases were detected and tested in the US through public health systems. These cases are spread out across all 50 states, the District of Columbia and other US territories.

New York is by far the worst hit state, with more than 2,900 cases.

Washington is next, with 1,187 cases.

California follows with 690 cases.

10:29 p.m. ET, March 18, 2020

Airlines slash flights and ask staff to stand down as pandemic hammers the aviation industry

A general view of a grounded Jetstar plane on February 19 in Sydney, Australia.
A general view of a grounded Jetstar plane on February 19 in Sydney, Australia. Brook Mitchell/Getty Images

As airlines suffer from the devastating shock of the coronavirus pandemic, they're slashing flights and suspending routes.

Australian airline Qantas and its subsidiary Jetstar will suspend scheduled international flights from late March until at least the end of May, and will cut 60% of domestic flights.

Two-thirds of its 30,000 employees will be temporarily stood down, the airline said.

Budget carrier Ryanair said it expects that "most if not all" its flights will be grounded by March 24, except for "a very few" essential operations, mainly between the UK and Ireland.

Scheduled flights from now until then will be cut by 80%.

Air Canada announced today that it will gradually suspend the majority of its international and US trans-border flights by March 31, following the news that the US-Canada border would be closed to non-essential traffic.

The airline said it intends to maintain a small number of international and US trans-border destinations from select Canadian cities after April 1.

10:18 p.m. ET, March 18, 2020

New coronavirus cases in US jails heighten concerns about an unprepared system

From CNN's David Shortell and Kara Scannell

In a June 20, 2014 file photo, the Rikers Island jail complex stands in New York with the Manhattan skyline in the background.
In a June 20, 2014 file photo, the Rikers Island jail complex stands in New York with the Manhattan skyline in the background.

The first known cases of coronavirus in the US federal correctional system emerged today, as the number of infected inmates and staffers at local facilities across the country continued to climb.

Since Tuesday, a staffer at a medium security federal prison in Berlin, New Hampshire, and an employee at a Bureau of Prisons administrative facility in Grand Prairie, Texas, have tested positive.

Corrections officers in New York and Georgia have now caught the virus, as well as an inmate at New York City's Rikers Island, marking the first case at the notorious jail.

Concerns about an unprepared system: The rise in infections have heightened concerns about the spread of the pandemic within the tight quarters housing the nation's inmates.

Officials cite short staffing and a lack of proper protective equipment. Criminal justice advocates have also called for the release of certain nonviolent offenders, including those who may be at greater risk from the virus, while high-profile inmates including Michael Cohen and Michael Avenatti have asked to be released.

In Arizona, the state's Department of Corrections said Wednesday that it would give inmates free hand soap after an advocacy group exposed a lack of cleaning supplies at local prisons and appealed to a federal judge to intervene.

10:06 p.m. ET, March 18, 2020

Just joining us? Here's the latest on the coronavirus pandemic

People go through a decontamination chamber as a preventive measure against the spread of the coronavirus, before entering a popular market in Caracas, Venezuela, on Wednesday, March 18.
People go through a decontamination chamber as a preventive measure against the spread of the coronavirus, before entering a popular market in Caracas, Venezuela, on Wednesday, March 18. Ariana Cubillos/AP

The numbers: Johns Hopkins University, which is tracking cases reported by the World Health Organization and additional sources, puts the total number of cases worldwide at more than 215,000, with at least 8,700 deaths.

Relief packages: President Donald Trump signed a coronavirus relief package that includes provisions for free testing for Covid-19 and paid emergency leave. In Canada, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced an $82 billion Covid-19 economic aid package.

Flight routes suspended: Australian airline Qantas and its subsidiary Jetstar will suspend scheduled international flights from late March until at least the end of May. Air Canada will gradually suspend the majority of its international and US trans-border flights by March 31. Ryanair said it expects that "most if not all" its flights will be grounded by March 24. There were 12,094 flight cancellations worldwide on Wednesday.

Undetected infections: Mild, asymptomatic or otherwise unrecognized infections may have driven the rapid spread of the novel coronavirus in the outbreak’s earliest days, according to modeling published in the journal Science.

Italy's biggest single-day jump: The number of coronavirus cases increased by 4,207 in 24 hours, bringing the total to 35,713. The total number of deaths now stands at 2,978.

Education disrupted: Coronavirus is impacting the education of more than 849 million children around the world, according to UNESCO. Meanwhile, schools are expected to close across the UK on Friday as coronavirus cases rose to 2,626, with 104 deaths. Northern Ireland’s schools will close starting Monday and will potentially remain closed until the summer holidays.

Situation in US: There are at least 8,525 cases of novel coronavirus across all 50 states and 145 people have died. President Trump says he sees the country on a wartime footing and himself as a "wartime president", and that he will be invoking the Defense Production Act.

Further border and travel restrictions: Singapore is to implement a 14-day mandatory quarantine for all inbound travelers; Israel has barred all foreign nationals from entering the country; the Jordanian Armed Forces said that all of Jordan’s governorates will be completely sealed; Portugal has declared a state of emergency; Brazil has partially closed its border with Venezuela; and Nigeria has banned entry for people from 13 countries.

9:52 p.m. ET, March 18, 2020

Coronavirus cases spike in Brazil, with patients including government ministers

From CNN’s Shasta Darling and Marcos Moreno in Brazil, and Abel Alvarado and Tatiana Arias in Atlanta

Rio's Christ the Redeemer statue is lit up with the flags of countries currently afflicted by the coronavirus in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Wednesday, March 18.
Rio's Christ the Redeemer statue is lit up with the flags of countries currently afflicted by the coronavirus in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Wednesday, March 18. Silvia Izquierdo/AP

Brazil reported a sharp single-day spike of 137 coronavirus cases, bringing the country's total to 428. 

Three more fatalities also bring the national death toll to four.

Government officials infected: Among the new cases is the President of Brazil’s Senate, Davi Alcolumbre. After testing positive, he is now isolated at home “without severe symptoms,” according to a Senate news release published Wednesday.

Earlier today, the minister of mines and energy, and the minister of institutional cabinet security also tested positive.

Both ministers accompanied Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro during his meeting with President Donald Trump at Mar-a-Lago earlier this month.

Last week, Bolsonaro’s press secretary, Fabio Wajngarten, whom also met with Trump, tested positive for the virus.