March 18 coronavirus news

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8:47 p.m. ET, March 18, 2020

Maryland reports first coronavirus death

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan announced Wednesday the state’s first death due to novel coronavirus.

According to a statement from the governor, the patient was a Prince George’s County resident in his 60s, who suffered from an underlying medical condition.

“It is with profound sadness that I announce the first death in Maryland as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. I ask all Marylanders to join me in praying for his family and loved ones during this difficult time. As we pray for his loved ones, I ask that we continue to pray for each other, for our state, and for our nation as we face this crisis together. We must use every possible resource at every level of government to save lives and keep people safe,” Hogan said in the statement.

At least 85 cases of coronavirus have been reported in Maryland.

8:46 p.m. ET, March 18, 2020

Second member of Congress tests positive for coronavirus

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call/AP
Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call/AP

Rep. Ben McAdams, a Democrat from Utah, tweeted Wednesday that he tested positive for coronavirus.

He said he first felt symptoms on Saturday after returning from Washington, and was tested on Tuesday. He received the positive result on Wednesday.

Read his tweet:

8:48 p.m. ET, March 18, 2020

New York City mayor slams Trump's handling of the coronavirus outbreak

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio criticized President Donald Trump’s response to the coronavirus pandemic Wednesday night, telling CNN “there’s a massive national crisis going on and he’s consistently late and very marginal in what he does.”

De Blasio said the federal government is absent in the discussion right now and noted the President is “the Herbert Hoover of his generation.”

“He’s taking actions that are far, far behind the curve and aren’t addressing the core concerns and talking about a massive number of new cases we expect of coronavirus, we’re almost to 2,000 cases right now in New York City alone,” de Blasio told CNN. “That’s going to cause a surge into our hospitals, they’re going to be using up their supplies rapidly in an unprecedented manor.”

He added that the President “has not done anything to maximize the amount of medical supplies being produced and to ensure they are being distributed where they are needed most in the United States."

8:38 p.m. ET, March 18, 2020

President Trump signs coronavirus relief package into law

President Trump signed into law a coronavirus relief package that includes provisions for free testing for COVID-19 and paid emergency leave.

The Senate had earlier Wednesday approved the House-passed bill. The move allowed the upper chamber to devote its full attention to passing the next relief package in response to the coronavirus crisis.

According to the White House, the "Families First Coronavirus Response Act" will provide "supplemental appropriations related to the COVID-19 public health emergency, as well as waivers and modifications of Federal nutrition programs, employment-related protections and benefits, health programs and insurance coverage requirements, and related tax credits during the COVID-19 public health emergency."

8:16 p.m. ET, March 18, 2020

Qantas and Jetstar will suspend international flights from late March

Mark Evans/Getty Images
Mark Evans/Getty Images

Australian airline Qantas and its subsidiary Jetstar will suspend scheduled international flights from late March until at least the end of May due to the coronavirus crisis.

In a statement posted on its website Thursday, Qantas Group announced that 60% of its domestic flights would also be cut, and two-thirds of its 30,000 employees would be temporarily stood down.

There's the possibility of ad-hoc international flights, the group said in its statement.

Here's the group's statement:

Earlier this week, cuts to 90 per cent of international flying and about 60 per cent of domestic flying were announced by Qantas and Jetstar. With the Federal Government now recommending against all overseas travel from Australia, regularly scheduled international flights will continue until late March to assist with repatriation and will then be suspended until at least the end of May 2020. As the national carrier, Qantas is in ongoing discussions with the Federal Government about continuation of some strategic links.
More than 150 aircraft will be temporarily grounded, including all of Qantas’ A380s, 747s and B787-9s and Jetstar’s B787-8s. Discussions are progressing with airports and government about parking for these aircraft.
Essential domestic, regional and freight connections will be maintained as much as possible.

Customers, shareholders, and passengers can read more about how this affects them here.

8:11 p.m. ET, March 18, 2020

Nine coronavirus tests are now FDA-authorized for emergency use

The US Food and Drug Administration has now authorized nine coronavirus tests for emergency use. 

The maker of one of those tests, Abbott, promised on Wednesday to ship 150,000 laboratory tests “immediately." 

The authorizations are somewhat of a formality. FDA guidance issued earlier this week allows companies to manufacture and ship tests before receiving permission.

Yet the authorizations still offer a stamp of approval to tests, signaling that federal regulators are satisfied with their validation data and believe their benefits outweigh any risks, such as false positives or negatives.

Four other tests were authorized by the FDA this week; Abbott’s test is the fifth, for a total of nine.

 Unlike tests that give results at home or in a doctor’s office, coronavirus tests must be run on specialized equipment in clinical labs.

The Abbott system can process up to 470 tests per day, according to the company, whose test was authorized Tuesday. The Swiss firm Roche, whose test was greenlit last week, says its systems can process up to 960 results in eight hours. 

Such “high-throughput” systems have the potential to dramatically increase testing capacity in the United States. But shortages of the people and tools needed to run the tests – like health care workers and cotton swabs – could still slow testing.

 

7:36 p.m. ET, March 18, 2020

Medical researcher from Washington state dies of coronavirus

A researcher at University of Washington Medicine has died of coronavirus, according to a tweet from the medical school.

Dr. Stephen Schwartz was a professor of pathology since 1984, according to the department’s biography, with a focus on vascular biology.

 “He has left a lasting imprint on our department, our university, and the broader scientific community and will be greatly missed,” the University of Washington Medicine's Department of Pathology tweeted. 

Schwartz co-authored dozens of studies on cardiovascular and cancer-related issues, according to a collection of research papers maintained by the National Institutes of Health. He earned his PhD from the University of Washington in 1973.

 

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

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

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. 

Watch:

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

FDA temporarily postpones all domestic routine surveillance facility inspections

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.