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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12:46 p.m. ET, March 18, 2020

Public health expert believes millennials may face "disproportional number of infections"

From CNN's Maegan Vazquez

Evan Vucci/AP
Evan Vucci/AP

Dr. Deborah Birx said during Wednesday’s briefing at the White House that the coronavirus task force is concerned about reports indicating that more young people are becoming seriously ill from coronavirus, suggesting they may have continued to be exposed to the virus because they weren’t concerned about being at risk.

“There are concerning reports coming out of France and Italy about some young people getting seriously ill and very seriously ill in the ICUs,” Birx said.

“We think part of this may be that people heeded the early data coming out of China and coming out of South Korea of the elderly or those with preexisting medical conditions were a particular risk,” she continued. “It may have been that the millennial generation … there may be disproportional number of infections among that group and so even if it’s a rare occurrence it may be seen more frequently in that group.”

Birx added that the task force has “not seen any significant mortality in children.”

Hear the full announcement:

12:37 p.m. ET, March 18, 2020

Refugee admissions to the US temporarily suspended

From CNN's Priscilla Alvarez

The US is putting a temporary pause on refugee admissions in light of the coronavirus pandemic, according to two sources familiar with an administration call Wednesday morning with refugee organizations.

The move comes after the International Organization for Migration, which is in charge of booking refugees on their travel, and the UN refugee agency announced a temporary suspension of resettlement travel. The agencies shared concerns in a statement Tuesday, saying international travel “could increase the exposure of refugees to the virus.”  

There will be a moratorium on refugee admissions until April 7, according to the sources. Wednesday will be the last day for refugee arrivals.

By the numbers: As of Feb. 29, there were 6,273 refugees admitted to the US this fiscal year. 

The State Department's Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration did not immediately respond to request for comment.

12:34 p.m. ET, March 18, 2020

White House recommends canceling non-essential elective surgery, including dental procedures

White House coronavirus task force member Seema Varna said at a news conference today that the Trump administration is recommending that patients cancel elective health procedures to help with health care capacity nationwide.

"We believe that these recommendations will help surgeons, patients, and hospitals prioritize what is essential, while leaving the ultimate decision in the hands of state and local health officials and those clinicians who have direct responsibility to their patients," Varna said. 

She continued: "We urge providers and clinicians and patients to seriously consider these recommendations. They will not only preserve equipment, but it also allows doctors and nurses to help those that are on the front lines, and it will protect patients from unnecessary exposure to the virus." 

12:39 p.m. ET, March 18, 2020

Pence announces regulation on doctors practicing across state lines

From CNN's Betsy Klein 

Evan Vucci/AP
Evan Vucci/AP

Vice President Mike Pence announced Wednesday that the Department of Health and Human Services is issuing a regulation to permit doctors to practice across state lines.

Pence also pleaded with hospitals and Americans to delay elective procedures as the outbreak spreads and hospitals face shortages of resources.

“With regard to medical personnel, at the President’s direction, HHS is issuing a regulation today that will allow all doctors and medical professionals to practice across state lines to meet the needs of hospitals that may arise in adjoining areas,” he said.

Pence added: “In addition to that, we are asking every American and our medical community leaders and hospitals to partner with us in delaying elective procedures across the country in our healthcare system to ensure that medical supplies and medical capacities go where they’re needed most.”

Hear the full announcement:

12:30 p.m. ET, March 18, 2020

Trump says HUD suspending foreclosures and evictions

From CNN's Kevin Liptak

Evan Vucci/AP
Evan Vucci/AP

President Trump said his administration will suspend foreclosures and evictions on homeowners at least until the end of next month.

Speaking at the White House, Trump said the move from the Department of Housing and Urban Development would provide relief during the coronavirus outbreak.

“The Department of Housing and Urban Development is providing immediate relief to renters and homeowners by suspending all foreclosures and evictions until the end of April,” Trump said.

Hear the full announcement:

12:23 p.m. ET, March 18, 2020

Trump suggests he'll hold a second news conference on FDA

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

Evan Vucci/AP
Evan Vucci/AP

President Trump said Wednesday afternoon that he may hold a second press conference Wednesday or Thursday about “exciting” Food and Drug Administration developments, declining to specify what those developments are.

“We are looking at looking at some very exciting things and I am going to be holding a second news conference either today. We’re going to talk about the FDA – some things that are happening that are quite exciting, and we’re going to be doing that either later today or tomorrow, fairly early tomorrow so we’ll see what happens,” he said.

He continued: “The FDA, at my instruction, has been working very, very hard on a number of developments and we’ll be discussing them with you later today or tomorrow.”

12:27 p.m. ET, March 18, 2020

Hotel industry group lobbies for government assistance during coronavirus crisis

From CNN’s Aaron Cooper

A hotel industry group says hotel rooms are more than 80% empty in four US cities. 

The American Hotel & Lodging Association said Seattle, San Francisco, Austin and Boston occupancy rates are below 20%. 

The group is lobbying for government assistance, including increased liquidity and low interest loans. 

Based on their current occupancy, the AHLA estimates nearly four million jobs have been eliminated or will be eliminated in the next few weeks.  

“The impact to our industry is already more severe than anything we’ve seen before, including September 11th and the great recession of 2008 combined,” Chip Rogers, AHLA president and CEO, said in the group's statement.
12:18 p.m. ET, March 18, 2020

Hospital ships preparing to deploy, but could still take a few weeks to arrive in New York

From CNN's Barbara Starr

The US Naval Hospital Ship Comfort sits docked at the Port of Miami in Miami, Florida on June 18, 2019.
The US Naval Hospital Ship Comfort sits docked at the Port of Miami in Miami, Florida on June 18, 2019. Rhona Wise/AFP/Getty Images

The US Navy hospital USNS Comfort could still be a “few weeks” away from arriving in New York, a US defense official tells CNN.

Both Navy hospital ships have “prepare to deploy” orders, two defense officials said. President Trump said Wednesday they’d launch in the next week or so. 

Both ships will start getting ready, with crew and medical staff. 

It is expected at this point the medical staff will be trauma care specialists, at least to begin with, so their presence can free up bed space in New York City hospitals. They will try for all due speed to get there, the officials said. 

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.