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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12:01 p.m. ET, March 19, 2020

Olympic Committee board member calls for postponement of Tokyo games

From CNN’s Aleks Klosok in London and Yoko Wakatsuki in Tokyo

Kazuhiro Nogi/AFP/Getty Images
Kazuhiro Nogi/AFP/Getty Images

Japanese Olympic Committee (JOC) board member Kaori Yamaguchi has called for the Tokyo Olympics to be postponed because athletes are unable to prepare adequately as a result of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, she told the Nikkei newspaper.

Yamaguchi, who won a Judo bronze medal at the Seoul Olympic Games in 1988, said she plans to raise this point at a JOC Board Meeting scheduled for March 27.

"The Olympics should not be held in a situation people in the world can’t enjoy," Yamaguchi said.

"As far as I can tell, athletes in the United States and Europe are unable to train as normal and finish their qualifying matches. That makes it impossible for them to appear well prepared at the start, with all the associated risks," Yamaguchi said.

Some context: Yamaguchi’s comments come after International Olympic Committee (IOC) member Hayley Wickenheiser on Tuesday called the decision to proceed with the Games “insensitive and irresponsible.”

Wickenheiser, who competed for Canada in five Winter Olympic Games in Ice Hockey and at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Softball, wrote in a statement on Twitter: "This crisis is bigger than even the Olympics […] Athletes can't train. Attendees can't travel plan."

The IOC and Tokyo 2020 Organizers have repeatedly insisted that the games will run as scheduled in Japan’s capital from July 24 to Aug. 9.

11:28 a.m. ET, March 19, 2020

New York governor: "There is no quarantine plan for New York City"

State of New York
State of New York

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo attempted to assuage concerns this morning by saying "there is no quarantine plan for New York City" as it relates to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Cuomo went on to discuss New Rochelle, which is in Westchester County. As of Wednesday morning, 538 of the more than 2,380 cases in New York state were in Westchester County.

"My containment plan in new Rochelle didn't contain anyone. It was a bad word. It meant to contain the virus. You could come and go in new Rochelle, schools were closed, large gatherings were closed. But there was no quarantine containment. Well, you called out the National Guard. I called out the National Guard to help with food delivery and cleaning surfaces," Cuomo said.

Some context: On Tuesday, Cuomo dismissed the possibility of an imminent shelter-in-place order after New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio urged New Yorkers to prepare for the measure.

De Blasio told New Yorkers to prepare for the possibility within the next two days.

"I think New Yorkers should be prepared right now for the possibility of a shelter in place order," de Blasio, a Democrat, said during a press briefing about coronavirus. "It has not happened yet but it is definitely a possibility at this point. I believe that decision should be made in the next 48 hours, and it's a very, a very difficult decision."

However, a shelter-in-place order would have to be approved by Gov. Cuomo.


11:14 a.m. ET, March 19, 2020

NY Federal Reserve to pump in another $10 billion today — this time to buy mortgage bonds

From CNN’s Matt Egan

The New York Federal Reserve continues to point a firehose of liquidity at clogged-up financial markets.

The NY Fed just announced it will purchase another $10 billion of mortgage-backed securities (MBS) on Thursday via two separate operations.

The cash injections, according to the NY Fed, are aimed at tackling "highly unusual disruptions" in the mortgage bond market linked to the coronavirus outbreak.

The $10 billion is part of the $200 billion in mortgage bonds the Fed promised on Sunday to buy as it relaunched quantitative easing, or QE.

And this is on top of the flurry of overnight repo operations that are aimed at unclogging short-term funding markets.

And the NY Fed made clear its MBS may only be beginning.

The statement said the NY Fed "stands ready" to buy even more mortgage bonds if it's needed to keep markets operating smoothly.

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

New York governor announces 90-day mortgage relief

From CNN's Elizabeth Joseph

Sate of New York
Sate of New York

To alleviate some of the financial hardships New Yorkers are experiencing due to the spread of coronavirus, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced a 90-day mortgage relief for homeowners across the state.

“We’re not exempting people from the mortgage payments, we’re just adjusting the mortgage to include those payments on the backend,” he said.

According to Cuomo, this mortgage relief includes:

  • Waive mortgage payments based on financial hardship
  • No negative reporting to credit bureaus
  • Grace period for load modification
  • No late payment fees or online payment fees
  • Postponing or suspending foreclosures
11:06 a.m. ET, March 19, 2020

Gas prices fall below $2 a gallon in 12 states

From CNN’s Jordan Valinsky

Nam Y. Huh/AP
Nam Y. Huh/AP

The average price of a gallon of gas has fallen below $2 in nearly a quarter of the country's states, according to AAA. 

The national average currently stands at $2.19 for a gallon of regular gas, the lowest it's been since early December 2016. That's down 13 cents from a week ago and 36 cents lower than a year ago.  

Oklahoma is the cheapest, with a cost per gallon of regular going for $1.84. Hawaii and California are the two most expensive states for a gallon of regular, at $3.52 and $3.28 respectively. 

"This is unprecedented," Tom Kloza, head of energy analysis for the Oil Price Information Service, told CNN Business.

Kloza expects that the national average will soon drop between $1.99 per gallon with some states hitting $1 per gallon or less. 

The national average price will probably decline further ‐perhaps to between $1.25 to $1.50 per gallon — in the next few months, he said.

10:59 a.m. ET, March 19, 2020

Labs ask for $5 billion for COVID-19 testing

By CNN's Katelyn Polantz

The American Clinical Laboratory Association is asking congressional leadership for $5 billion in emergency funding for COVID-19 testing and related costs.

“We are growing increasingly concerned the federal government is not recognizing the strain on the laboratory industry to meet the demand for testing for COVID-19,” the group wrote in a letter on Wednesday night.

The labs in the industry group have done 43,000 COVID-19 tests so far, they say, but have had no assurance for how these tests will be paid for.

"Notably, these tests have been performed absent assurances about the payment for these necessary services," the letter says. "We are growing increasingly concerned that the federal government is not recognizing the strain on the laboratory industry to meet the demand for testing for COVID-19.

Free testing for COVID-19 has now been promised to the American people. Laboratories should not bear the cost of "free" testing. Clinical laboratories need additional support from Congress to ensure we have the necessary staffing, supplies and equipment to fulfill that vital promise."

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."