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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3:49 p.m. ET, March 18, 2020

Digestive symptoms were the “chief complaint” in nearly half of COVID-19 cases, small study says

From CNN Health’s Arman Azad

Digestive symptoms may be more common in coronavirus infections than previously thought, with a small study released Wednesday finding that symptoms such as diarrhea and a loss of appetite were the “chief complaint” in nearly half of more than 200 confirmed COVID-19 cases.

The research suggests that, during the coronavirus pandemic, clinicians may need to look beyond the major Covid-19 symptoms identified by US health officials: fever, cough and shortness of breath.

That’s because many patients infected with coronavirus, according to the study, may initially present to the hospital with diarrhea, anorexia and vomiting – not necessarily with respiratory symptoms.

Even when researchers excluded anorexia – a loss of appetite or aversion to food – they found that 1 in 5 coronavirus patients still came to the hospital with diarrhea, vomiting or abdominal pain.

In more severe coronavirus cases, digestive symptoms also became more pronounced, and patients with digestive problems were less likely to be discharged, according to the study.

The research, published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology, looked at 204 confirmed coronavirus cases in Hubei province, China. A small number of those patients – seven people – had digestive problems, but no respiratory symptoms at all.

While the researchers cautioned that larger studies would be needed to confirm their findings, they warned that “if clinicians solely monitor for respiratory symptoms to establish case definitions for COVID-19, they may miss cases initially presenting with extra-pulmonary symptoms, or the disease may not be diagnosed later until respiratory symptoms emerge.”

That might explain why many health care workers in China were infected in the early days of the coronavirus outbreak, the researchers said.

“Although this was related to improper protection of medical personnel early on,” they wrote, “it may also have resulted from failing to consider COVID-19 in the face of atypical extra-pulmonary symptoms, especially those with digestive symptoms at the beginning of the outbreak.”


3:58 p.m. ET, March 18, 2020

Senate voting now on House-passed coronavirus relief

From CNN's Clare Foran and Ted Barrett

Senate TV
Senate TV

The US Senate is now voting on the House-passed coronavirus relief legislation that includes provisions for free testing for COVID-19 and paid emergency leave. 

Once the Senate approves the measure it will go to President Trump for his signature. Trump expressed support for the package last week, paving the way for a broad bipartisan vote in the House.

Passage will also allow the Senate to devote its full attention to passing the next relief package in response to the coronavirus crisis. 

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and other Senate Republicans have been critical of the House-passed legislation, but have emphasized that it is urgent to get relief to the American people amid the coronavirus crisis.

McConnell reiterated today that he will not adjourn the Senate until it passes what lawmakers are describing as a "phase three" economic stimulus package in response to the coronavirus outbreak. 

After an initial vote last week, the House approved a set of changes to the legislation on Monday, clearing the path for the Senate to take it up this week.


3:39 p.m. ET, March 18, 2020

Jordan's governorates to be completely sealed off Thursday

From CNN’s Kareem Khadder in Jerusalem and Ruba Alhenawi in Atlanta

Jordanian soldiers keep watch on Wednesday, March 18, in the capital Amman as Jordan takes measures to fight the spread of the coronavirus.
Jordanian soldiers keep watch on Wednesday, March 18, in the capital Amman as Jordan takes measures to fight the spread of the coronavirus. Khalil Mazrawwi/AFP/Getty Images

Jordanian Armed Forces announced on Wednesday that all of Jordan’s governorates will be completely sealed off at 7 a.m. local on Thursday (11 p.m. ET Wednesday), Jordan’s state-run News Agency (PETRA) reported. 

The Army statement said that “all crossing points to and from Amman and all of the Kingdom’s governorates will be closed."

The announcement added that exceptions will be made for those with permits from the Armed Forces and based on the nature of their work. 

On Wednesday, Jordan’s government held their first cabinet meeting remotely, “as a part of the government’s efforts to lead by example when it comes to social distancing," according to a tweet from the Prime Ministry. 

Jordan’s Prime Minister Omar Razzaz announced on Tuesday the implementation of “Defense Law” in an attempt to contain the spread of novel coronavirus in the country. 

3:22 p.m. ET, March 18, 2020

CDC reports more than 7,000 cases of coronavirus in US

From CNN's Amanda Watts

There are now 7,038 confirmed and presumptive positive cases of novel coronavirus in the United States, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC says 97 people have died.

CNN’s tally relies on state totals and won’t always match the CDC’s count; CNN has counted more than 7,500 cases and 124 deaths.

The CDC says there are cases in 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam and the US Virgin Islands. Of the cases the CDC is reporting, 269 are travel-related, 276 are from close-contact and a majority, 6,493, are still under investigation, the CDC website says.

The CDC says there are 46 cases among people who were aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship, and three among people repatriated from China. These are counted separately from the US total.

On Tuesday, the CDC reported 4,226 cases. The CDC is updating its coronavirus case numbers on weekdays. CDC’s numbers close out at 4 p.m. the day before reporting. The most up-to-date case counts will come from states, CDC officials have said.  

3:08 p.m. ET, March 18, 2020

New Jersey governor is in "intense conversations" with White House over coronavirus support

From CNN's Melanie Schuman

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said he is engaged in “intense conversations” with the White House and spoke to the Vice President on Tuesday about the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

His administration sent a letter Tuesday regarding the Army Corps of Engineers and received a “response” this morning.

New Jersey needs more manpower, supplies and space, according to officials who are predicting the state will have a shortage of hospital beds much like the rest of the nation.

The state is bringing 260 beds online, 119 of them are in the northern part of the state, 11 in central region and 50 are in the southern part of the state. The state hopes to have another 227 beds online within the next three to four weeks, according to officials.

Bergen County College will be up and running by Friday as a testing site which will prioritize symptomatic patients along with health care workers and first responders. It can collect up to 2,500 specimens a day, officials said.

2:56 p.m. ET, March 18, 2020

Scientists say they've developed a coronavirus test that can give results in 30 minutes

From CNN’s Augusta Anthony in London

Scientists at the University of Oxford have developed a rapid testing technology for the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, according to a press release from the university on Wednesday.

The new test takes just half an hour, over three times faster than the current method, the university said.��Previous tests took up to two hours to give a result, according to the press release. The test was validated with real clinical samples at Shenzhen Luohou People’s Hospital in China, the university said. 

The research was initiated by the Oxford Suzhou Centre for Advanced Research in China and experiments carried out in the Department of Engineering Science at the University of Oxford.

The scientists are working to develop an integrated device that can test at clinics, airports and at home. They plan to run validations in the United Kingdom and explore how to produce test kits.

2:56 p.m. ET, March 18, 2020

Coronavirus death toll rises to 55 in Washington state

From CNN's Konstantin Toropin

A third Clark County COVID-19 patient died late Tuesday evening, health officials from the county’s health department announced through a statement.

The patient is described as a man in his 70s and he was the first confirmed COVID-19 case in Clark County, according to the statement.

He did not have any recent travel or known contact with a confirmed case, the statement added 

“It’s a tragedy that we’ve lost another member of our community to Covid-19,” said Dr. Alan Melnick, Clark County health officer and Public Health director, in the statement. “We send our deepest condolences to his family.”

This death bring the total deaths in the state to 55.

3:15 p.m. ET, March 18, 2020

Is London about to go into lockdown? 

From CNN’s Luke McGee in London

The National Gallery and Trafalgar Square are seen with a few visitors in London, Britain, on March 17..
The National Gallery and Trafalgar Square are seen with a few visitors in London, Britain, on March 17.. Han Yan/Xinhua via ZUMA Wire

London could go into lockdown as early as Friday afternoon in an attempt to slow the spread of the coronavirus, according to reports in multiple UK news outlets. 

Multiple UK government sources told CNN that conversations had taken place inside Downing Street looking at restricting travel in and out of the city, shutting parts of London's public transport and how these measures would be enforced.

Downing Street declined to comment on specifics or timing, but would not rule out any of the above measures put to them by CNN, repeating its position that the government will do all that is necessary to protect public health. 

Pressed on the lockdown rumours in his daily coronavirus press briefing, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “We live in land of liberty ... and it's one of the great features of our lives we don't tend to impose those sorts of restrictions on people in this country, but I have to tell you we will rule nothing out and we will certainly wish to consider bringing forward further and faster measures where that is necessary."

The sources said that if such drastic measures were introduced, then Londoners would be given plenty of time to take any personal measures necessary ahead of the lockdown period. 

Sources close to the Mayor of London's office told CNN that it didn't know anything at the moment, explaining that they had not been privy to any government thinking. 

Johnson has repeated this week that London is ahead of the rest of the country in terms of the virus spreading and comments from Scotland's first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, that London could see tougher measures than the rest of the UK prompted fears of lockdown. 

Right now, multiple sources close to the Prime Minister say they don't expect an announcement to be made imminently.

However, the regularity with which they are reminding us that the situation is developing faster than initially expected means that Londoners might be wise to keep an eye on the news in the coming days. 

Watch: Brits blame UK government as coronavirus fears rise

2:43 p.m. ET, March 18, 2020

Miami Archdiocese suspends all masses and other events due to coronavirus

From CNN's Denise Royal

Miami's Archdiocese has suspended all mass and other church events due to the coronavirus pandemic, according to statement.

"In cooperation with efforts to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), the Archdiocese of Miami announces the suspension, effective today, March 18, of all regularly scheduled celebrations of Masses or other liturgical events in parish churches and other public sanctuaries. Also, any parish or ministry events — e.g. prayer groups, Bible studies, etc. — are also suspended or postponed," the diocese said.