March 12 coronavirus news

By Jessie Yeung, Adam Renton, Sheena McKenzie and Meg Wagner, CNN

Updated 10:06 PM ET, Thu March 12, 2020
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1:54 p.m. ET, March 12, 2020

NASCAR will race without fans

From CNN's David Close

Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images
Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

NASCAR has announced that races will go on as planned but without fans.

The series is racing at the Atlanta Motor Speedway this weekend.

"At this time, NASCAR will hold its race events at Atlanta Motor Speedway and Homestead-Miami Speedway without fans in attendance. These events will be restricted to competitors, crews, officials and other necessary personnel to conduct the race. We will work with public health officials as we determine future scheduling beyond these events," NASCAR said in a statement.
1:40 p.m. ET, March 12, 2020

NHL suspends season effective immediately

From CNN's David Close

Scott Taetsch/Getty Images
Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

The National Hockey League (NHL) Commissioner Gary Bettman has announced the suspension of the current season effective immediately.

Bettman acknowledged the NBA’s suspension by stating, “following last night’s news that an NBA player has tested positive for coronavirus – and given that our leagues share so many facilities and locker rooms and it now seems likely that some member of the NHL community would test positive at some point – it is no longer appropriate to try to continue to play games at this time.”

1:38 p.m. ET, March 12, 2020

Does donated blood get screened for coronavirus?

Your coronavirus questions, answered

At least 4.5 million Americans need donated blood every year, but this is the first time novel coronavirus has been a concern in the nation's blood supply.

Here's what the AABB, formerly the American Association of Blood Banks, has said about coronavirus:

"Individuals are not at risk of contracting COVID-19 through the blood donation process or via a blood transfusion since respiratory viruses are generally not known to be transmitted by donation or transfusion."
"The U.S. Food and Drug Administration continues to report that there have been no reported or suspected cases of transfusion-transmitted COVID-19 to date."
"In addition, no cases of transfusion-transmission were ever reported for the other two coronaviruses that emerged during the past two decades (SARS, the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus, and MERS-CoV, which causes Mideast Respiratory Syndrome)."

The AABB said routine screening measures are already in place to prevent anyone with clinical respiratory infections from donating blood.

But there is one big concern involving blood donations and coronavirus: the possibility that fewer people will come out to donate.

"If the outbreak of coronavirus continues to spread, additional challenges may arise, which could potentially reduce the number of eligible donors," the AABB said.

1:42 p.m. ET, March 12, 2020

The US Senate will be in session next week, McConnell says

From CNN's Lauren Fox, Phil Mattingly and Manu Raju on Capitol Hill

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell bump elbows as they attend a lunch with Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar on Capitol Hill on March 12.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell bump elbows as they attend a lunch with Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar on Capitol Hill on March 12. Susan Walsh/AP

The US Senate will be in session next week and will not go on a previously scheduled recess, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced on Thursday.  

"The Senate will be in session next week," McConnell wrote on Twitter. "I am glad talks are ongoing between the Administration and Speaker Pelosi. I hope Congress can pass bipartisan legislation to continue combating the coronavirus and keep our economy strong."

This comes as Republican senators up for reelection did not want to go home without passing an economic relief bill. Many Republicans believed that they would be in an untenable position politically if Democrats in the House passed their own bill and the Senate left town without acting. 

1:27 p.m. ET, March 12, 2020

Metropolitan Opera cancels all performances and rehearsals through March 31

From CNN’s Alec Snyder

Angela Weiss/AFP via Getty Images
Angela Weiss/AFP via Getty Images

The Metropolitan Opera in New York City has canceled all performances and rehearsals through March 31 because of the ongoing coronavirus outbreak.

“With health authorities urging social distancing with greater emphasis, it is simply untenable for us to continue to perform, as it puts our artists, staff, and audiences at risk. I would like to express my deep personal regret that the situation has led us to this point," Met General Manager Peter Gelb said.

 

1:30 p.m. ET, March 12, 2020

Florida Sen. Rick Scott will self-quarantine after potential contact with infected Brazilian official

Samuel Corum/Getty Images
Samuel Corum/Getty Images

Sen. Rick Scott, a Florida Republican, said Thursday he would self-quarantine after potentially coming into contact with a Brazilian government aide who tested positive for coronavirus.

"My office was alerted today by the Brazilian Embassy that a member of President Bolsonaro’s delegation tested positive for Coronavirus. On Monday, I met with the President in Miami, and while I do not believe I interacted with the infected person, that individual was in the same room as me. The Embassy said the person had no symptoms leading up to or the day of the conference," Scott said in a statement.

He said that while doctors told him his risk was low and that he didn't need to take a test nor quarantine, he would do so out of an abundance of caution.

1:32 p.m. ET, March 12, 2020

Coronavirus to get more dangerous in coming weeks, British prime minister says

From CNN's Lindsay Isaac

Simon Dawson/POOL/AFP via Getty Images
Simon Dawson/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

The worst of the coronavirus pandemic is yet to come in the UK, the British Prime Minister said on Thursday. 

“The most dangerous period is not now but some weeks away depending on how fast it spreads,” Boris Johnson said at news conference to announce the UK’s move to the "delay" phase of its coronavirus action plan. 

“The virus is more dangerous than seasonal flu and more people are going to get it. More families will lose loved ones,” Johnson warned. 

Under the plan, if the UK is able to delay the "peak" of the virus by a “few weeks,” the National Health System will be better positioned to handle it, he said. If the peak is delayed until the weather is warmer, there will be less people suffering from respiratory tract related illnesses and would put the NHS in a “stronger state.”

1:17 p.m. ET, March 12, 2020

Boston hotel that hosted conference tied to coronavirus cases closes

From CNN’s Jessica Moskowitz

David L. Ryan/The Boston Globe via Getty Images
David L. Ryan/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

The Marriott Boston Long Wharf – the site of the Biogen conference, which dozens of Massachusetts' coronavirus cases are connected to — will be closed to guests effective today, according to the Boston Public Health Commission.

The hotel and the health commission had the mutual decision to close the hotel.

“The mutually agreed upon decision was based on the facts obtained through confirmed cases connected to hotel and contact tracing to identify close contacts of those cases,” the commission said in a statement.

At least 70 confirmed coronavirus cases in Massachusttes are related to employees at Cambridge biotechnology company Biogen.  

1:25 p.m. ET, March 12, 2020

Trump administration sees a number of European countries as the biggest threat for coronavirus

From CNN's Priscilla Alvarez, Kaitlan Collins, Lauren Fox, Geneva Sands and Alex Rogers

A Department of Homeland Security spokesperson on Thursday told CNN that the US government sees a number of countries on the European continent as the biggest threat concerning the coronavirus.

The Trump administration did not have those concerns about the United Kingdom, the spokesperson told CNN, and President Trump, during a press gathering Thursday afternoon, said he did not have concerns about the United Kingdom, which has "very strong borders." 

The DHS told CNN they have seen a lot of broken travel histories from individuals from some of those European countries, which makes it harder to track their movements. DHS "confident we can capture the vast majority of qualifying travelers with this order," the spokesperson said.

On Thursday, Acting Homeland Security Deputy Secretary Ken Cuccinelli pointed out that Europe presents a "unique problem," because the Schengen Zone – which allows for free movement throughout European Union countries – creates a region where "they don't have borders for the purposes of travel." He added that there are 26 countries with which to contend. He questioned whether it "even makes sense" to treat Italy as a unitary entity and said the Italian government is conducting exit testing for travelers on direct flights to the US.

A source with the State Department told CNN they will extend the prohibition to the UK if the cases continue to rise there. The department's level 3 warning included the UK and the rest of the world. State official tells have said they did that knowing it would greatly reduce all international travel by Americans.