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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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.

  

9:25 p.m. ET, March 18, 2020

California to provide $150 million to protect homeless from coronavirus pandemic

California Gov. Gavin Newsom issued an executive order today to allocate $150 million to mitigate the spread of coronavirus among the state's particularly vulnerable homeless population.

According to Newsom, the state will provide:

  • $100 million directly to local governments for shelter support and emergency housing for the homeless population
  • $50 million to purchase travel trailers and lease rooms in hotels, motels, and other facilities in partnership with counties and cities to provide immediate isolation placements statewide for homeless individuals. 

The state is immediately procuring 1,309 trailers and is leasing two hotels to provide emergency isolation units for homeless people, Newsom announced at a news conference.

9:22 p.m. ET, March 18, 2020

Two US congressmen test positive for coronavirus

From CNN's Dan Berman

Two US congressmen tested positive for the coronavirus today.

First was Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, a Republican from Florida.

He tweeted the confirmation of his diagnosis, and that he is feeling better.

"However, it's important that everyone take this seriously and follow @CDCgov guidelines in order to avoid getting sick & mitigate the spread of this virus," Diaz-Balart said.

Then Rep. Ben McAdams, a Democrat from Utah, tweeted later today that he had also tested positive.

He said he first felt symptoms on Saturday after returning from Washington, and was tested on Tuesday. He received the positive result on Wednesday.

They are both under quarantine.

9:20 p.m. ET, March 18, 2020

Medical researcher from Washington state dies of coronavirus

From CNN's Andy Rose

A researcher at University of Washington Medicine has died of coronavirus, according to a tweet from the medical school.

Dr. Stephen Schwartz was a professor of pathology since 1984, according to the department’s biography, with a focus on vascular biology.

“He has left a lasting imprint on our department, our university, and the broader scientific community and will be greatly missed,” the University of Washington Medicine's Department of Pathology tweeted. 

Schwartz co-authored dozens of studies on cardiovascular and cancer-related issues, according to a collection of research papers maintained by the National Institutes of Health. He earned his PhD from the University of Washington in 1973.

9:49 p.m. ET, March 18, 2020

New York City mayor slams Trump's handling of the coronavirus outbreak

From CNN's Rob Frehse

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio criticized President Donald Trump’s response to the coronavirus pandemic Wednesday night, telling CNN “there’s a massive national crisis going on and he’s consistently late and very marginal in what he does.”

De Blasio said the federal government is absent in the discussion right now and noted the President is “the Herbert Hoover of his generation.”

“He’s taking actions that are far, far behind the curve and aren’t addressing the core concerns and talking about a massive number of new cases we expect of coronavirus, we’re almost to 2,000 cases right now in New York City alone,” de Blasio told CNN. “That’s going to cause a surge into our hospitals, they’re going to be using up their supplies rapidly in an unprecedented manner.”

He added that the President “has not done anything to maximize the amount of medical supplies being produced and to ensure they are being distributed where they are needed most in the United States."

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