March 19 coronavirus news
Prince Albert II of Monaco has tested positive for COVID-19, a palace spokesperson told CNN.
His health status is not worrying, the spokesperson added.
The State Department is preparing to raise its travel advisory worldwide to Level 4: Do Not Travel – the highest level — in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.
Four sources told CNN that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had approved a Level 4 advisory.
Late last Wednesday, the advisory was raised globally to Level 3: Reconsider Travel “due to the global impact of COVID-19.”
Politico was the first to report the heightened advisory level. CNN has reached out to the State Department for comment.
Another source told CNN that the move would be aimed at curtailing Americans’ travel abroad and to get those who are traveling to come home.
Japanese Olympic Committee (JOC) board member Kaori Yamaguchi has called for the Tokyo Olympics to be postponed because athletes are unable to prepare adequately as a result of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, she told the Nikkei newspaper.
Yamaguchi, who won a Judo bronze medal at the Seoul Olympic Games in 1988, said she plans to raise this point at a JOC Board Meeting scheduled for March 27.
"The Olympics should not be held in a situation people in the world can’t enjoy," Yamaguchi said.
"As far as I can tell, athletes in the United States and Europe are unable to train as normal and finish their qualifying matches. That makes it impossible for them to appear well prepared at the start, with all the associated risks," Yamaguchi said.
Some context: Yamaguchi’s comments come after International Olympic Committee (IOC) member Hayley Wickenheiser on Tuesday called the decision to proceed with the Games “insensitive and irresponsible.”
Wickenheiser, who competed for Canada in five Winter Olympic Games in Ice Hockey and at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Softball, wrote in a statement on Twitter: "This crisis is bigger than even the Olympics […] Athletes can't train. Attendees can't travel plan."
The IOC and Tokyo 2020 Organizers have repeatedly insisted that the games will run as scheduled in Japan’s capital from July 24 to Aug. 9.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo attempted to assuage concerns this morning by saying "there is no quarantine plan for New York City" as it relates to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Cuomo went on to discuss New Rochelle, which is in Westchester County. As of Wednesday morning, 538 of the more than 2,380 cases in New York state were in Westchester County.
"My containment plan in new Rochelle didn't contain anyone. It was a bad word. It meant to contain the virus. You could come and go in new Rochelle, schools were closed, large gatherings were closed. But there was no quarantine containment. Well, you called out the National Guard. I called out the National Guard to help with food delivery and cleaning surfaces," Cuomo said.
Some context: On Tuesday, Cuomo dismissed the possibility of an imminent shelter-in-place order after New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio urged New Yorkers to prepare for the measure.
De Blasio told New Yorkers to prepare for the possibility within the next two days.
"I think New Yorkers should be prepared right now for the possibility of a shelter in place order," de Blasio, a Democrat, said during a press briefing about coronavirus. "It has not happened yet but it is definitely a possibility at this point. I believe that decision should be made in the next 48 hours, and it's a very, a very difficult decision."
However, a shelter-in-place order would have to be approved by Gov. Cuomo.
The New York Federal Reserve continues to point a firehose of liquidity at clogged-up financial markets.
The NY Fed just announced it will purchase another $10 billion of mortgage-backed securities (MBS) on Thursday via two separate operations.
The cash injections, according to the NY Fed, are aimed at tackling "highly unusual disruptions" in the mortgage bond market linked to the coronavirus outbreak.
The $10 billion is part of the $200 billion in mortgage bonds the Fed promised on Sunday to buy as it relaunched quantitative easing, or QE.
And this is on top of the flurry of overnight repo operations that are aimed at unclogging short-term funding markets.
And the NY Fed made clear its MBS may only be beginning.
The statement said the NY Fed "stands ready" to buy even more mortgage bonds if it's needed to keep markets operating smoothly.
To alleviate some of the financial hardships New Yorkers are experiencing due to the spread of coronavirus, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced a 90-day mortgage relief for homeowners across the state.
“We’re not exempting people from the mortgage payments, we’re just adjusting the mortgage to include those payments on the backend,” he said.
According to Cuomo, this mortgage relief includes:
- Waive mortgage payments based on financial hardship
- No negative reporting to credit bureaus
- Grace period for load modification
- No late payment fees or online payment fees
- Postponing or suspending foreclosures
The average price of a gallon of gas has fallen below $2 in nearly a quarter of the country's states, according to AAA.
The national average currently stands at $2.19 for a gallon of regular gas, the lowest it's been since early December 2016. That's down 13 cents from a week ago and 36 cents lower than a year ago.
Oklahoma is the cheapest, with a cost per gallon of regular going for $1.84. Hawaii and California are the two most expensive states for a gallon of regular, at $3.52 and $3.28 respectively.
"This is unprecedented," Tom Kloza, head of energy analysis for the Oil Price Information Service, told CNN Business.
Kloza expects that the national average will soon drop between $1.99 per gallon with some states hitting $1 per gallon or less.
The national average price will probably decline further ‐perhaps to between $1.25 to $1.50 per gallon — in the next few months, he said.
The American Clinical Laboratory Association is asking congressional leadership for $5 billion in emergency funding for COVID-19 testing and related costs.
“We are growing increasingly concerned the federal government is not recognizing the strain on the laboratory industry to meet the demand for testing for COVID-19,” the group wrote in a letter on Wednesday night.
The labs in the industry group have done 43,000 COVID-19 tests so far, they say, but have had no assurance for how these tests will be paid for.
"Notably, these tests have been performed absent assurances about the payment for these necessary services," the letter says. "We are growing increasingly concerned that the federal government is not recognizing the strain on the laboratory industry to meet the demand for testing for COVID-19.
Free testing for COVID-19 has now been promised to the American people. Laboratories should not bear the cost of "free" testing. Clinical laboratories need additional support from Congress to ensure we have the necessary staffing, supplies and equipment to fulfill that vital promise."
The USNS Mercy hospital ship is now expected to head to the Seattle area in the next five to 10 days, according to a defense official.
“That is the expectation,” the official said.
The final destination could always change depending on civilian needs, the official cautioned.
The other ship, the USNS Comfort, is still weeks away from being deployed to New York.
"The Comfort, which is on the East Coast, should be ready in a couple weeks,” Secretary of Defense Mark Esper told CNN’s Jake Tapper on Wednesday.
Esper made also made clear to CNN that the two Navy hospital ships being deployed to help respond to the coronavirus outbreak will not treat patients suffering from the virus.