March 18 coronavirus news

By Jessie Yeung, Helen Regan, Steve George, Angela Dewan and Fernando Alfonso III, CNN

Updated 9:37 p.m. ET, March 18, 2020
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11:41 a.m. ET, March 18, 2020

Trump is sending a hospital ship to New York, governor says

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said today at a news conference that the federal government will be dispatching the USNS Comfort hospital ship to New York to assist with the health care capacity.

Cuomo said it would be docked in New York City harbor.

Cuomo called this an "extraordinary step" because the Comfort is "literally a floating hospital."

The President and Cuomo are also discussing the possibility of the federal government putting up mobile hospitals in New York to help with capacity, the governor said.

Cuomo said that New York needs to increase its hospital bed capacity by 50,000 to meet the potential need to care for coronavirus cases.

11:38 a.m. ET, March 18, 2020

Schumer: "We must make sure that we prioritize public health and workers over corporate bailouts"

From CNN's Clare Foran

Senate TV
Senate TV

Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer talked about what Senate Democrats want in the next phase of economic stimulus relief today.

The New York lawmaker said “Democrats are proposing a Marshall Plan for our public health infrastructure. The sooner we act on it the better."

“We must make sure that we prioritize public health and workers over corporate bailouts,” Schumer said.

On the Republican proposals for direct cash payments to Americans, Schumer said, “This is not a time for small thinking. This is not a time for small measures. This is a time to be bold, to be aggressive …. $1,000 goes by pretty quickly if you’re unemployed. In contrast, expanded unemployment insurance, beefed up unemployment insurance covers you for a much longer time and would provide a much bigger safety net.”

Schumer added: “If we’re going to provide direct payments, they need to be bigger, more frequent, more targeted. Millionaires shouldn’t get them."

11:35 a.m. ET, March 18, 2020

Canadian prime minister announces $82 billion COVID-19 economic aid package

From CNN’s Gregory Lemos

CTV Network
CTV Network

Speaking on the heels of President Trump's announcement the US-Canadian border will be closed for tourism and recreation, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced new and significant economic measures in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Speaking from Rideau Cottage today, Trudeau said the Canadian government is focused on people who are not getting what they need during this outbreak can still buy groceries and supporting businesses who are experiencing slowdowns.

Trudeau announced $27 billion in direct support to workers and businesses and an additional $55 billion "to meet liquidity needs of Canadian businesses and households through tax deferrals to help stabilize the economy."

This $82 billion in support represents more than 3% of Canadian GDP, according to Trudeau.

Trudeau said his government is introducing "The Emergency Care Benefit," which will provide money every two weeks for up to 14 weeks for workers who have to stay home due to COVID-19. This money is available to Canadians who have fallen ill, placed in quarantined, have to isolate, or take care of someone with the virus.

11:25 a.m. ET, March 18, 2020

Virginia governor: "I know what it's like to be in a crisis situation with finite resources"

From CNN's Carma Hassan

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam addressed the ongoing coronavirus pandemic today, citing his military background.

“I know that everyone is concerned about our hospital resources. I was an Army doctor, I know what it is like to be in a crisis situation with finite resources," Northam said.

Northam said they are working to ensure the hospitals have all the resources they need.

Virginia Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Norman Oliver said they are reporting three outbreaks, meaning two or more cases that can be traced to a common exposure.

Oliver said they have 65 tests that are in the process of being run at the state lab with more being run by the private labs and expects that additional cases will be confirmed during the day.

11:21 a.m. ET, March 18, 2020

Missouri governor postpones municipal elections

From CNN's Melissa Alonso

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson announced today that all municipal elections previously scheduled for April 7 would now be held on June 2, he said in a press release. 

“Given the growing concern surrounding COVID-19 and the large number of people elections attract, postponing Missouri’s municipal elections is a necessary step to help combat the spread of the virus and protect the health and safety of Missouri voters,” Parson said.

The deadline to register at any of the 116 separate election authorities will not be extended from March 11, the release said.

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

Judge for Southern District of New York puts non-essential employees on administrative leave

From CNN's Kara Scannell

All federal courthouse employees in Manhattan who haven’t been directed to work have been placed on administrative leave, according to chief judge for the Southern District of New York Colleen McMahon

“To protect public health, and in recognition of the national emergency that was declared by the President of the United States on March 13, 2020, the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, in accordance with all applicable leave regulations and guidelines, hereby places all employees of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York who have not been directed to work, either at the courthouses or remotely, on administrative leave, retroactive to March 9, 2020,” according to the order. 

The order is the latest move to restrict and decrease the number of people entering the courthouse. McMahon also issued an order postponing any appearances for violation notices.

11:16 a.m. ET, March 18, 2020

Brazil partially closes border with Venezuela for 15 days

From CNN’s Flora Charner in Atlanta

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro speaks with press on Tuesday March, 17,  in Brasilia, Brazil.
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro speaks with press on Tuesday March, 17, in Brasilia, Brazil. Andressa Anholete/Getty Images

The Brazilian government has partially closed its border with Venezuela today. 

The move, which was announced by President Jair Bolsonaro late Tuesday, will restrict the entry of any foreign nationals through the country’s northern border for the next 15 days.

“Taking into consideration the incapacity of the Venezuelan dictatorship’s ability to respond to the COVID-19 outbreak, the Brazilian government has decided to adopt restrictive measures on the border with Venezuela in order to guarantee the safety and health or our people,” Bolsonaro wrote on his official Twitter account Wednesday.

Bolsonaro said cargo trucks carrying merchandise and goods would still be allowed to enter through the border crossing. The Brazilian leader also said the 15-day closure could be extended if needed.

By the numbers: Brazilian health officials announced the country’s first coronavirus-related death Tuesday and said there are 291 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the country. 

11:06 a.m. ET, March 18, 2020

Spain cancels all boats, flights to Spanish islands

From CNN's Mia Alberti in Lisbon and Ingrid Formanek in Madrid

All aerial and maritime connections between mainland Spain and its Canary and Balearic Islands will be suspended from 7 p.m. ET (midnight local) today to help curb the spread of COVID-19. 

All flights from mainland airports to Melilla, and helicopter flights to Ceuta, will also be suspended, according to the Spanish Ministry of Transport.

According to the Canary autonomous government, inter-island flights will also be reduced to 18 daily connections, to guarantee the transport of "200 workers who work between islands."

Military or state airplanes, cargo, humanitarian, medical and emergency flights are not included in the measure. All flights will operate at a 50% capacity.

As for maritime transportation, the 62 daily inter-island connections will be reduced to 26, and only those with "justified needs" will be able to travel, the ministry said.

10:59 a.m. ET, March 18, 2020

Louisiana now has 240 coronavirus cases statewide

From CNN's Tina Burnside

The Louisiana Department of Health is reporting 240 cases of novel coronavirus as of this morning. The new figure includes an increase of 44 cases since the last update on Tuesday. 

Orleans Parish in New Orleans has been the hardest hit by the coronavirus outbreak, with 176 positive cases and four deaths to date.