March 19 coronavirus news

By Jessie Yeung, Helen Regan, Adam Renton, Emma Reynolds and Fernando Alfonso III, CNN

Updated 10:42 p.m. ET, March 19, 2020
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5:38 p.m. ET, March 19, 2020

McConnell introduces sweeping $1 trillion emergency aid proposal

From CNN's Phil Mattingly and Manu Raju

Susan Walsh/AP
Susan Walsh/AP

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell just introduced a sweeping, $1 trillion emergency economic aid proposal in response to coronavirus pandemic.

The proposal would include direct payments to Americans under a certain income threshold, $200 billion in loans to airlines and distressed industry sectors, and $300 in forgivable bridge loans for small businesses. 

The proposal, a draft of which was obtained by CNN, underscores the scale of the economic crisis now facing individuals and businesses across the country amid the accelerating pandemic and addresses bolstering health care resources, student loans and aid, business tax provisions and temporary authority. 

The proposal, however, is just an opening bid as the Senate attempts to address the coronavirus outbreak. It was drafted by Senate Republicans and the Trump administration, with no input from Democrats.

At the heart of the proposal is hundreds of billions of dollars directed toward “recovery rebates” of up to $1,200 for individuals and $2,400 for couples beneath a certain income threshold.

The proposal also includes $300 billion to be used for loans to small businesses, however structured, as well as private nonprivate organizations.

The program would be structured so businesses could take out loans from banks and lenders that would be guaranteed by the Small Business Administration. Those loans must be used, according to the proposal, for to pay salaries, mortgage payments, other debt obligations and payroll support including paid sick, medical and family leave, as well as health care benefits.

5:41 p.m. ET, March 19, 2020

Airline trade group says industry needs "immediate" financial assistance to protect 11 million jobs

From CNN's Kate Trafecante

Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images
Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

A trade group representing the largest US airlines is asking Congress and the Trump administration to work together and quickly implement financial aid to protect millions of airline jobs.

In a letter addressed to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, Airlines for America said its speaking on behalf of 11 million workers the industry either directly represents or supports.

"The rapid spread of COVID-19 and the government- and business-imposed restrictions on air travel are having never-before seen impacts on U.S. aviation and our employees,” the trade group said. “The breadth and immediacy of the need to act cannot be overstated. It is urgent and unprecedented.”

Airlines for America represents the biggest US airline carriers, including American Airlines, Delta, United and Southwest.

5:50 p.m. ET, March 19, 2020

Pentagon prepares to deploy two active duty Army mobile hospital units

From CNN's Barbara Starr

AFP/Getty Images/File
AFP/Getty Images/File

Two active duty Army mobile hospital units have received "prepare to deploy” orders, according to Army Chief of Staff General James McConville.

This type of order is an early signal to military units to be ready to deploy, although final orders could still change. The units would be sent to still-to-be determined areas where additional medical beds are needed to treat non-infectious patients, so civilian hospitals can focus on those with coronavirus. 

The units receiving the orders are the 47th Combat Support Hospital based at Joint-Base Lewis-McChord in Washington state which has seen a significant virus outbreak, and the 586th Field Hospital at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. Both units typically deploy with hundreds of troops, including full surgical and trauma care capability.

In recent years these types of units have made repeated deployments to warzones. It’s not clear yet, if these units deploy, what types of manning levels and medical expertise they will utilize. The Pentagon has said as they deploy medical units it wants to ensure military bases still have sufficient medical care, and if reservists are called up that local communities are not impacted.

5:48 p.m. ET, March 19, 2020

Bolsonaro's son blames Chinese "dictatorship" for global coronavirus spread

From CNN’s Shasta Darlington in Sao Paulo

One of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s son set off a war of words Thursday, after calling the Chinese government a “dictatorship” that purposely hid the severity of coronavirus.

Eduardo Bolsonaro, a congressional lawmaker for the state of Sao Paulo, wrote on Twitter: “Once again, a dictatorship chose to hide something serious instead of exposing the reality, which could have saved countless lives. China is to blame and freedom is the solution.”

The Chinese embassy in Brazil responded to Eduardo Bolsonaro via Twitter Wednesday, saying his comments “sounded familiar” and were “extremely irresponsible.”

“Your words are extremely irresponsible. They sound familiar, like an imitation of those of your dear friends. You must have caught a mental virus upon your return from Miami, which is infecting the friendship between our people.”

President Bolsonaro and Eduardo Bolsonaro were both part of a delegation that visited US President Trump in Mar-a-Lago almost two weeks ago.

China is Brazil’s biggest trading partner, but Bolsonaro has made it clear that he considers Trump his main international ally.

4:42 p.m. ET, March 19, 2020

Rouhani orders closing of all malls and markets for 15 days

From CNN's Sara Mazloumsaki

In this photo released by the official website of the Office of the Iranian Presidency, President Hassan Rouhani attends a cabinet meeting in Tehran, Iran, Wednesday, March 18.
In this photo released by the official website of the Office of the Iranian Presidency, President Hassan Rouhani attends a cabinet meeting in Tehran, Iran, Wednesday, March 18. Office of the Iranian Presidency via AP

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani ordered the closing all shopping malls and markets, except for essential centers such as pharmacies and grocery stores for the next 15 days, starting Friday, the first day of the Iranian New Year.

He also assigned the interior minister and governors of each province to evaluate crowded areas in key provinces.

The Iranian health ministry announced Thursday that every 10 minutes one Iranian dies from coronavirus and every hour 50 Iranians are going to be infected by the virus.

At least 1,284 people have died from coronavirus, according to the health ministry. At least 18,407 cases of coronavirus have been reported in the country.

5:40 p.m. ET, March 19, 2020

Israel is requiring citizens to stay home for 7 days

From CNN’s Oren Liebermann in Jerusalem

A woman wears a mask as she rides a bicycle in Tel Aviv, Israel, Tuesday, March 17.
A woman wears a mask as she rides a bicycle in Tel Aviv, Israel, Tuesday, March 17. Sebastian Scheiner/AP

Israel is requiring its citizens to stay home for seven days, the latest in a series of escalating steps to stop the spread of coronavirus.

The announcement makes mandatory a series of recommendations from the Ministry of Health made earlier this week.

"Difficult times require difficult measures. You are required to stay at home. this is no longer a request. This is no longer a recommendation. This is an obligatory requirement," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Thursday night.

Israel had already closed down leisure and entertainment venues, while encouraging citizens to stay home unless it was necessary to leave the house. The latest instructions, which Netanyahu said would be approved as emergency regulations, go into effect tonight.

“We are very much minimizing the movement of people outside of their homes,” said Ministry of Health Director-General Moshe Bar Siman Tov. “We are telling the public — this time not in a recommendation but in a requirement — don’t leave home. Leave your home only when you have to leave your home: if it’s for work that’s allowed, if it’s necessary for purchases, and if it’s for medical treatment.”

Pharmacies, supermarkets and essential services will remain open.


4:25 p.m. ET, March 19, 2020

Massachusetts now has more than 300 cases

Massachusetts added 72 positive coronavirus cases, bringing the state total to 328, according to the state's website.

Forty-three people remain hospitalized, and 3,132 people have been tested in the state, according to the website.

Cases related to Biogen conference attendees and household contacts remain at 97.

4:24 p.m. ET, March 19, 2020

FDA: Those who donate blood "are contributing immeasurably"

Cedars-Sinai charge nurse Lorraine McPherson works as employees donate blood during a blood drive held in a blood mobile outside Cedars-Sinai Medical Center on March 19,  in Los Angeles, California.
Cedars-Sinai charge nurse Lorraine McPherson works as employees donate blood during a blood drive held in a blood mobile outside Cedars-Sinai Medical Center on March 19, in Los Angeles, California. Mario Tama/Getty Images

The FDA is urging Americans to donate blood, saying those who do "are contributing immeasurably to the public health of our nation."

"People who donate blood are equivalent to those people who are working in a critical infrastructure industry," FDA said in a statement

FDA says donations are down, but blood donation centers can take donations safely.

"In order to ensure that blood is available to those who need it most, it is important for healthy individuals who are able to donate to take the time to do so," the statement said. 

4:35 p.m. ET, March 19, 2020

Verizon CEO says the US network can handle coronavirus-related web traffic

From CNN Business' Clare Duffy

Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg
Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg CNN

In a matter of days, mass numbers of workers, students and businesses have increased their use of the internet to work, communicate and stay entertained as coronavirus spreads. Netflix said Thursday it will reduce streaming quality in Europe to keep the internet from collapsing under the strain of unprecedented usage.

But Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg said he's not concerned about the US network's ability to handle the traffic.

“So far (we’re seeing) no congestion in the network, we can handle that, we have built a very robust network," Vestberg told CNN's Richard Quest Thursday.

The company has noted a shift in the types of applications relying on the network: gaming is up 75% from the prior week, web traffic is up 20%, VPN usage is up 30% and streaming is up 10%.

In less than one week, 100,000 of Verizon's 135,000 global employees have shifted to remote working arrangements, but Vestberg said the company remains focused on network up-keep.

“We still have field engineers in the market keeping the network up ... We need to keep these networks up because they are so important in this critical moment and this crisis right now,” he said.