March 18 coronavirus news

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12:20 p.m. ET, March 18, 2020

Trump invoking Defense Production Act

From CNN's Maegan Vazquez, Betsy Klein, and Kaitlan Collins 

Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Imges
Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Imges

President Trump said during Wednesday’s White House press briefing that he will be invoking the Defense Production Act.

“Right after we finish this conference, I’ll be signing it and it’s prepared to go,” Trump said.

CNN reported last month that the Trump administration was considering using the 1950 wartime law to expand the production of masks and protective gear to prevent the spread of the virus.

12:14 p.m. ET, March 18, 2020

Trump: Hospital ships being sent to NY Harbor and West Coast

President Trump just confirmed a statement made earlier today by Gov. Andrew Cuomo that the federal government will be deploying a US Navy ship to New York City to help with hospital capacity.

Trump added that an additional ship will be deployed to a yet to be determined location on the West Coast as well.

"They are being prepared right now. They're massive ships. They are the big, white ships with the Red Cross on the sides," Trump said about the ships, speaking at a press conference with his White House coronavirus task force.

12:26 p.m. ET, March 18, 2020

Trump says "FEMA is activated in every region" as coronavirus challenges rise

Pool
Pool

President Trump announced Wednesday afternoon that the Federal Emergency Management Agency has been activate across the country as it continues to fight the coronavirus.

"Today, FEMA is activated in every region. We are at level one, level one being the highest level which we will work with, and we've been working with FEMA. I've done a lot of work with FEMA. They're incredible. It's always been on hurricanes or tornadoes," Trump said moments ago from the White House.

Trump added: "This is a very different kind of a work for FEMA, but they will come through as they always do. We have tremendous people, tremendous talent in FEMA."

Watch the moment:

12:09 p.m. ET, March 18, 2020

McConnell announces vote on final passage of House bill this afternoon

From CNN's Manu Raju

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced that the US Senate will vote on the House bill in the 2 p.m. ET, and 60 votes will be required for passage.

It is expected to pass. That vote will occur immediately after votes on two amendments — one from Sen. Patty Murray and one from Sen. Ron Johnson — both of which are expected to fail.

The Senate is voting momentarily on an amendment from Sen. Rand Paul to offset the costs of the House package. The Paul amendment is also expected to fail.

12:04 p.m. ET, March 18, 2020

Cuba confirms first coronavirus-related death

From CNN’s Patrick Oppmann in Havana

Cuba’s Health Ministry confirmed its first novel coronavirus-related death, a 61-year-old Italian man, today.

According to the ministry’s Twitter page, the man died this morning. Cuban officials had previously said he suffered from asthma.

The man was one of three Italian tourists who arrived in Havana on March 9, the same day that Italy put into place a quarantine on domestic and international travel for its citizens to stop the rapid spread of the virus. 

By the numbers: Cuba confirmed three new cases on Wednesday, which includes two Cubans and a 77-year-old man from California. The country’s total now sits at 10 cases. 

12:20 p.m. ET, March 18, 2020

New York governor says state needs 50,000 more hospital beds

Gov. Andrew Cuomo reiterated the virus should peak in 45 days and is again asking for up to 110,000 beds with current capacity of 53,000 beds.

Cuomo met yesterday with all hospital administrators to identify up 50,000 new beds. The state will waive Department of Health regulations which include the space in a given room and how many beds are in it.

The state has a current capacity of 3,000 ventilators, but Cuomo wants 37,000 ICU units and he equated an ICU bed to a ventilator given the setup.

“That’s our main issue,” Cuomo said, adding, “That’s a projection and projections can change.”

The state needs more current and reserve staff and the state is reaching out to retired nurses and doctors as well as medical and nursing schools to build up reserve capacity.

How this may work: In order to get new hospital beds, the state is looking to convert facilities and move people who are currently in hospital beds to a converted facility for a lower level of care should the case apply.

Reiterating the needs for a federal partnership, the governor said the state cannot do it on its own.

”We are very ambitious, very aggressive,” but “Know what we cannot do. Know your limitations," Cuomo said.

Hear the announcement:

11:55 a.m. ET, March 18, 2020

US reports more than 7,000 coronavirus cases

From CNN's Amanda Watts

There are at least 7,111 cases of the novel coronavirus in the United States, according to the state and local health agencies and governments and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

According to the CDC, there are 70 cases from repatriated citizens. And according to CNN Health’s tally of US cases that are detected and tested in the United States through public health systems, there are 7,041 cases in all 50 states, Washington, DC, and other U.S. territories, bringing the total number of coronavirus cases to 7,111.

In total, 117 people have died. 

11:52 a.m. ET, March 18, 2020

New York governor orders non-essential businesses to keep 50% of staff at home

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced a new mandatory order for non-essential businesses that says they can have no more than 50 percent of workforce report for work outside the home. He is doing this by executive order.

11:52 a.m. ET, March 18, 2020

Chile's president declares 90-day state of emergency amid coronavirus concerns

From CNN’s Sharif Paget in Atlanta

Chilean President Sebastián Piñera declared a 90-day state of emergency today amid growing coronavirus concerns.

During a televised speech from La Moneda presidential palace, Piñera said the measure was being put in place in order to curb the spread of the virus and that it would go into effect at midnight Thursday (11 p.m. ET Wednesday).

Piñera said the decision will allow the government to restrict public gatherings, transit and implement curfews if need be. 

The president added the government will also take measures to protect supply chains for medicines and food.

Chilean health officials said the country has registered 238 cases of the virus and no deaths.