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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10:08 a.m. ET, March 12, 2020

White House suspends public tours

From CNN's Kevin Liptak and Kate Bennett

A view of the White House in Washington, DC, on March 11.
A view of the White House in Washington, DC, on March 11. Credit: Yasin Ozturk/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

As of this morning, people calling the White House tour line are being greeted by a message telling them: "Out of an abundance of caution" public tours have been "temporarily suspended." 

The message does not specifically mention coronavirus.

10:28 a.m. ET, March 12, 2020

Stock trading paused for 15 minutes

From CNN’s Anneken Tappe 

US stocks sold off sharply for the second straight day after President Trump banned European travel to the United States. Wall Street investors are worried about the scale of the coronavirus pandemic and its economic consequences.

Shortly after the opening, trading was halted because the S&P 500 dropped more than 7%. Trading will stop for 15 minutes.

The Dow opened 7.4%, or 1,750 points, lower. The Nasdaq Composite fell 6.9%.

Stock market circuit breakers, explained

9:36 a.m. ET, March 12, 2020

A mission to Mars has been postponed, partly due to the coronavirus

From CNN’s Fred Pleitgen in Berlin

Workers prepare the European Space Agency's ExoMars rover at an Airbus facility in Stevenage, England, in August 2019.
Workers prepare the European Space Agency's ExoMars rover at an Airbus facility in Stevenage, England, in August 2019. Credit: Aaron Chown/PA Images/Getty Images

A joint European-Russian mission to send a rover to Mars that was due to launch this year, has been postponed to 2022, partly because of the coronavirus outbreak.

In a joint statement, the Russian and European space agencies said that "further tests to the spacecraft with the final hardware and software are needed."

“In addition, the parties had to recognise that the final phase of ExoMars activities are compromised by the general aggravation of the epidemiological situation in European countries.”
9:47 a.m. ET, March 12, 2020

US does not have a system in place to test like foreign countries, lawmakers told

From CNN's Manu Raju

Several members emerged from a House briefing on the coronavirus pandemic saying that they were told that tests would increase — but that the briefers acknowledged that the US system is trying to catch up to other countries like South Korea. 

“I don’t think anyone is going to leave that briefing satisfied with what’s going on with testing right now," Democrat Rep. Mike Quigley said. "Bottom line, you leave that briefing and we are not where we need to be and not sure when we are going to get there. We are flying blind.”

He added: “I think the first thing they said was we don’t have a system that works like it does in other countries to adequately test at this time."

Rep. Jan Schawkowsky said that they were told 7,300 tests have been conducted by the public sector and 3,800 tests by private labs.

“I think everyone leaving that briefing is feeling more confused than ever and disappointed in the numbers that we heard — that we really don’t have a system that tests are being distributed and tests are being given,” Schakowsky said

9:27 a.m. ET, March 12, 2020

Angela Merkel's party postpones meeting to choose her successor

From CNN's Nadine Schmidt in Berlin

The leader of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, left, speaks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, prior to a party leadership meeting on February 24, in Berlin, Germany.
The leader of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, left, speaks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, prior to a party leadership meeting on February 24, in Berlin, Germany. Credit: Odd Andersen/AFP/Getty Images

German Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU) have postponed a key party conference scheduled for April 25 which was set to choose her successor as party leader, amid coronavirus fears.

The party's interim chair, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, said in a statement:

“The CDU party conference previously planned for April 25 cannot take place. I will therefore recommend to the Federal Executive Committee to postpone the planned party conference and to hold it as soon as the epidemic situation allows.”
“For the CDU the rule is always: first the country, then the party. The health of the people in our country has priority over everything else.”

Kramp-Karrenbauer had been Merkel’s presumed successor until earlier this year, when she announced she would not replace the leader whose term expires in 2021 – throwing Germany’s political future into uncertainty.

9:23 a.m. ET, March 12, 2020

Princess Cruises stops trips on 18 ships for 60 days

The Grand Princess cruise ship, operated by Princess Cruises, is seen off the coast of San Francisco, California on March 8.
The Grand Princess cruise ship, operated by Princess Cruises, is seen off the coast of San Francisco, California on March 8. Credit: Josh Edelson/AFP/Getty Images

Princess Cruises announced today it will voluntarily pause global operations for its 18 cruise ships for two months.

The company said it will offer guests the opportunity "to transfer 100% of the money paid for their cancelled cruise" to a future cruise.

Earlier today, Viking Cruises announced it is temporarily suspending cruise operations until May.

2:29 p.m. ET, March 12, 2020

South Africa announces — then backtracks — on case of community spread

From CNN’s David McKenzie in Johannesburg

South African health minister Zweli Mkhize retracted an earlier announcement of community spread of coronavirus. 

The minister said that a follow-up test showed that the person was, in fact, negative for the virus.

Earlier today, South Africa announced what it thought was its first case of local transmission of coronavirus.

9:09 a.m. ET, March 12, 2020

Listen to today's Coronavirus: Fact vs Fiction podcast

Each day, CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta is breaking down the latest news about the coronavirus on the Coronavirus: Fact vs Fiction podcast.

In today's episode, Gupta speaks with Dr. Anne Schuchat, Principal Deputy Director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about the agency's response to the coronavirus and the outbreak's impact on health, travel and education.

You can listen to it here.

10:29 a.m. ET, March 12, 2020

Usher for 2 Broadway shows tests positive for coronavirus

From CNN's Taylor Romine

A part-time employee of two New York City theater groups who recently worked at Broadway shows has tested positive for coronavirus.

The employee — an usher who works for both the Shubert and Nederlander Organizations — is currently under quarantine, according to a statement from the companies.

The individual most recently worked at Shubert’s Booth Theatre Tuesday through Friday of last week during performances of "Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf."

The person also worked at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre on Feb. 25 and March 1 when it was showing the musical "SIX." The Brooks Atkinson Theatre has been deep cleaned, according to the statement, provided by DKC/O&M public relations.

“Employees of the theaters and productions who may have been exposed were notified and advised to monitor their health diligently and follow best practices related to personal hygiene, as well as directed to stay at home if they are ill. In addition, we are urging any high-risk audience members who attended these performances in the past several days to follow similar guidance," the statement said.

The two shows are continuing with performances.

“This evening’s performances of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf at the Booth, SIX at the Brooks Atkinson, and all other Broadway shows have determined they will continue as scheduled – any ticketholder that prefers to attend a future performance will be provided the opportunity for an exchange at the point of purchase,” the companies said in a statement.

De Blasio: I don't want to see Broadway go dark