March 18 coronavirus news

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6:57 p.m. ET, March 18, 2020

Undetected infections may have driven "rapid dissemination" of coronavirus, modeling shows

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 Monday in the journal Science.

The research, based on reported cases in China and travel data, estimated that 86% of coronavirus infections in the country were “undocumented” in the weeks before officials instituted stringent quarantines. 

Undocumented infections, according to the researchers, can go unrecognized because they come with mild or no symptoms, and that “can expose a far greater portion of the population to virus than would otherwise occur.”

These undetected cases, which are often less severe, were estimated to be about half as contagious as confirmed cases. But because undetected cases were more common, they could have played an outsize role in spreading the virus, the study said.

About 4 in 5 people confirmed to have coronavirus, for example, were likely infected by people who didn’t know they had it, according to the modeling.

“These findings explain the rapid geographic spread of [coronavirus] and indicate containment of this virus will be particularly challenging,” the researchers wrote.

The study, they later added, suggests that “a radical increase in the identification and isolation of currently undocumented infections would be needed to fully control [the virus].”

6:55 p.m. ET, March 18, 2020

Arizona governor pleads for blood donations during outbreak

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey said blood supplies in his state are at critical levels.

"People are asking how they can help their communities. Here's what you can do. You can donate blood. You can donate blood. You can donate blood. Blood levels dangerously low at our blood banks," he said during a news conference Wednesday

According to Ducey, 32 blood drives have been canceled in the state.

There are at least 27 cases of coronavirus in Arizona, according to the state's Health Director Dr. Cara Christ.

8:15 p.m. ET, March 18, 2020

ICE tells congressional staffers it will temporarily adjust enforcement posture

US Immigration and Customs Enforcement told congressional staffers Wednesday that it has temporarily adjusted its “enforcement posture,” according to a memo obtained by CNN, marking a change in operations as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. 

The agency said it will focus on those who pose a public safety risk and are “subject to mandatory detention based on criminal grounds.”  

Immigrant advocates have called on ICE to dial back operations amid the coronavirus outbreak, arguing that the agency has instilled fear in the immigrant community and might discourage some from seeking medical attention. 

The agency noted in its memo to staffers that it will not carry out enforcement operations at or near health care facilities, “except in the most extraordinary circumstances,” adding that individuals should not avoid seeking medical care over fears of enforcement.

The agency said the changes were going to be implemented Wednesday and they will exercise discretion for those who do not fall under the specified categories, according to the memo. 

6:48 p.m. ET, March 18, 2020

Oklahoma City Thunder tests negative for coronavirus

The NBA’s Oklahoma City Thunder said they have tested negative for coronavirus after hosting the Utah Jazz on March 11 — a game ultimately suspended before tip-off.

The Jazz were the first NBA team to report that two of its players, Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell, tested positive for COVID-19. 

The Thunder said it “did not use state resources and chose an alternative path for testing of its personnel."

6:35 p.m. ET, March 18, 2020

US Customs and Border Protection will close Trusted Traveler program enrollment centers until at least May

US Customs and Border Protection on Thursday will temporarily close enrollment centers for the Trusted Traveler Program, like Global Entry, until at least May. 

CBP has made the move in an effort to minimize the exposure of CBP personnel and the public to novel coronavirus. This impacts all public access Global Entry enrollment centers, NEXUS enrollment centers, SENTRI enrollment centers and FAST enrollment locations, according to CBP. 

Conditionally-approved applicants who want to go to an enrollment center interview will need to reschedule. 

This comes as federal agencies are shutting down services to the public. On Tuesday, US Citizenship and Immigration Services announced it was closing its offices to the public.

6:35 p.m. ET, March 18, 2020

Nearly 1 in 4 Californians are under "shelter-in-place" orders

Nearly one in every four Californians has been ordered to stay home to help curb the coronavirus spread. 

Napa, Yolo, and San Luis Obispo counties, and the city of Fresno are the latest areas to issue "shelter-in-place" orders, joining ten other Northern California counties.

“These are extremely difficult times. The COVID-19 virus continues to spread around the world and in our local communities,” said Dr. Ron Chapman, public health officer for Yolo County. “We need to do everything we can to protect our most vulnerable people from the harmful impacts of the virus.”

Fresno Mayor Lee Brand is also asking his city’s nearly 600,000 residents to stay home until further notice, with an updated emergency order that goes into effect at midnight.

Residents are still allowed to leave their house to buy groceries and get medical supplies. They can also go outside for a walk or a hike, as long as social distancing is maintained.

These directives do not apply to essential workers, like health care professionals or vital infrastructure employees.

6:27 p.m. ET, March 18, 2020

Drake Relays postponed due to the coronavirus outbreak

The famed athletics meet, the Drake Relays, held annually on the Drake University campus in Des Moines, Iowa, has been postponed indefinitely due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Race organizers said in a statement that the postponement was based on "the health, safety, and wellbeing of our participants and fans, along with guidance from local and national health officials, have been at the forefront of the decision-making process."

Originally scheduled for April 22-25, organizers said they a looking into holding the 111th edition, known as "America's Athletic Classic," sometime this summer.

Famed sprinters Jesse Owens, Michael Johnson and Allyson Felix are just three of the many Olympians who have all competed at the Drake Relays.

6:24 p.m. ET, March 18, 2020

There's a backlog of coronavirus tests in Minnesota, governor says

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz said more than 1,000 coronavirus tests are still waiting to be processed because of the state’s backlog. 

“We’ve had to freeze 1,700 samples,” Walz said at a news conference Wednesday. “We can’t test them.”

The governor said they have put in three requests for additional testing supplies in the past 10 days that have not been fulfilled. Walz said the backlog is hurting their ability to respond to the pandemic.

 "It's the data from testing that allows us to model where this is going to go, and then the response is based on that modeling,” Walz said.

6:26 p.m. ET, March 18, 2020

Ryanair says it will ground "most if not all" flights by March 24

Filip Radwanski/SOPA Images/LightRocket/Getty Images
Filip Radwanski/SOPA Images/LightRocket/Getty Images

The low-cost airline 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.

The company said it will "cut flight schedules" from 8 p.m. ET on March 18 until March 24 by 80%.

"We expect that most if not all Ryanair Group flights will be grounded," the company said in a statement. 

Ryanair said the current COVID-19 pandemic and travel bans "have had a negative impact" on its operations. The airline said it still may "operate rescue flights" to support repatriation efforts.