March 18 coronavirus news

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7:57 p.m. ET, March 18, 2020

There are at least 8,525 coronavirus cases in the US

From CNN's Allison Flexner

A man is tested for coronavirus at the Doris Ison Health Center in Miami, Florida, on March 18.
A man is tested for coronavirus at the Doris Ison Health Center in Miami, Florida, on March 18. Lynne Sladky/AP

There are at least 8,525 cases of novel coronavirus in the United States, according to the 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 US public health systems, there are 8,455 cases in all 50 states and the District of Columbia and other US territories, bringing the total number of coronavirus cases to 8,525.

In total, 145 people have died. 


7:25 p.m. ET, March 18, 2020

FDA temporarily postpones all domestic routine surveillance facility inspections

From CNN’s Wes Bruer

The US Food and Drug Administration will temporarily postpone all domestic routine surveillance facility inspections due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn announced Wednesday.

It made the move for the health of its staff, state inspectors “and because of industry concerns about visitors," he said.

The agency handles facility inspections for all FDA-regulated products, such as food, animal feed, drugs, biological products, devices and tobacco.

“All domestic for-cause inspection assignments will be evaluated and will proceed if mission-critical. We will continue to respond to natural disasters, outbreaks and other public health emergencies involving FDA-regulated products,” Hahn said.

But the FDA will be looking at other ways to complete inspections, such as “evaluating records in lieu of conducting an onsite inspection on an interim basis when travel is not permissible, when appropriate," he said.

The FDA had previously postponed most foreign facility inspections through April. 

Hahn stated that the FDA “will continue to assess and calibrate our approach as needed and we stand ready to resume any postponed inspections as soon as feasible.”  

Hahn also said the FDA directed all eligible employees to begin teleworking this week.

7:19 p.m. ET, March 18, 2020

California governor issues order to waive standardized testing for students

From CNN's Sarah Moon

California Gov. Gavin Newsom issued an executive order to waive this year’s statewide standardized testing for K-12 students, according to a statement from his office. The order is pending federal approval.

“This time is stressful enough for students, families and educators without the additional burden of annual testing,” Newsom said. “This is an unprecedented time, and our main focus is on supporting the mental and socioemotional health of students, while continuing to provide educational opportunities such as distance learning.”

More than 6 million students are out of school in California due to closures to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

7:17 p.m. ET, March 18, 2020

Brooklyn Nets say several players tested for coronavirus after showing symptoms

From CNN's Homero De La Fuente

Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty Images
Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty Images

The NBA's Brooklyn Nets said Wednesday that the team was prompted to administer a test for COVID-19 after several players and staff had shown symptoms. 

“As we learned NBA players on other teams had tested positive for COVID-19, we noticed that several of our players and staff had symptoms. Based on this information, and the judgment that all of our players are subject to high exposure due to the close physical nature of basketball, the communal nature of teams and the possibility of an accelerated spread from team to team, our medical experts advised that our players get tested," the team said in a statement. 

The team also added that they "sourced the tests through a private company and paid for them ourselves because we did not want to impact access to CDC’s public resources. Using the test results, we were able to take immediate precautions and strictly isolate the players who tested positive."

The Nets announced on Tuesday that four players had tested positive for COVID-19, most notably superstar Kevin Durant. 

So far seven NBA players have tested positive for coronavirus. 

7:22 p.m. ET, March 18, 2020

Air Canada will gradually suspend majority of international and US trans-border flights

From CNN's Rebekah Riess

Air Canada announced Wednesday that it will gradually suspend the majority of its international and US trans-border flights by March 31.

The move come after the US and Canada decided to close its borders and restrict flights as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the airline said in a statement.

The airline said it intends to maintain a small number of international and US trans-border destinations from select Canadian cities after April 1.

According to the statement, the airline will also continue serving all provinces and territories of Canada after that date.

7:04 p.m. ET, March 18, 2020

First member of Congress tests positive for coronavirus

Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call/Getty Images
Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call/Getty Images

Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, a Republican from Florida, has become the first member of Congress to test positive for coronavirus.

He tweeted 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.


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

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

From CNN’s Arman Azad

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

From CNN's Dave Alsup

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

From CNN's Pricilla Alvarez

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.