March 19 coronavirus news

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10:32 a.m. ET, March 19, 2020

Trump administration promises to buy 30 million barrels of crude to aid oil industry

From CNN’s Matt Egan

The Energy Department promised Thursday to support US oil producers facing "potentially catastrophic losses" by quickly purchasing 30 million barrels of crude.

Those barrels, purchased at dirt-cheap prices, will be used to start filling up America's emergency oil stockpile, known as the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, or SPR.

The initial purchase will be focused on small and midsize US oil producers, the group most at risk from the oil crash to $20 a barrel.

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said he will recommend to President Trump that he request funding from Congress to buy even more crude — enough to fill up the SPR.

"At $22 for WTI crude, we should be filling up the reserve for the next 10 years," Mnuchin said on Fox Business Thursday morning.

Mnuchin said the oil market has "nothing to do with the coronavirus, other than there's just a lot less demand."

That's not exactly right: The demand destruction, caused by mass cancellations of flights and widespread factory shutdowns, is a major driver of the oil crash.

The other huge problem: Saudi Arabia and Russia are flooding the market with too much supply in a bid to crowd out high-cost US producers.

10:23 a.m. ET, March 19, 2020

UK government tries to calm fears surrounding London lockdown

Analysis from CNN’s Luke McGee in London

Pedestrians cross a quiet Millennium Footbridge across the River Thames in London in the mid-morning on Tuesday, March 17.
Pedestrians cross a quiet Millennium Footbridge across the River Thames in London in the mid-morning on Tuesday, March 17. Justin Tallis/AFP/Getty Images

The United Kingdom's communications team went into overdrive on Thursday in an attempt to play down fears of a lockdown in London. 

Reports of the imminent imposition of tighter restrictions in the capital gained steam after Prime Minister Boris Johnson, at a press conference on Wednesday night, repeatedly refused to deny that such measures were being considered. 

“We will rule nothing out and we will certainly wish to consider bringing forward further and faster measures where that is necessary,” Johnson said.

Multiple government sources told CNN on Wednesday that serious conversations about restricting travel in and out of the capital and limiting the city's transport network were taking place at the highest levels of government. 

However, on Thursday morning, the prime minister's official spokesperson told journalists that there was "zero prospect" of travel restrictions and that the government has "no plans" to shut down the London's transport network. 

Some context: It's worth remembering that until recently, the closure of schools was not something the government was considering, and that as recently as two weeks ago, the scientific evidence didn't support stopping mass gatherings such as concerts or music events. 

However, British schools will close their gates at the end of this week and as of Monday, mass gatherings will not be supported by emergency workers. 

Music festivals have been canceled, West End theaters shuttered and cultural life in the UK is winding down. London’s transport authority closed 40 Tube stations on Thursday and reduced the service frequency on most lines, ostensibly to maintain a baseline service.

10:18 a.m. ET, March 19, 2020

Second coronavirus-related death reported in Connecticut

From CNN’s Ganesh Setty

A 91-year-old man in Connecticut has died “due to complications from COVID-19,” Gov. Ned Lamont tweeted Thursday morning.

The man – a New Canaan resident who was being treated at Norwalk Hospital – is the second reported death in Connecticut.

“Our hearts are with his family and friends at this difficult time,” Lamont tweeted.

10:13 a.m. ET, March 19, 2020

Coronavirus-related death toll in Louisiana rises to 8

From CNN's Tina Burnside

The Louisiana Department of Health has reported an eighth death related to COVID-19. The 60-year-old individual was a St. James Parish resident.

As of Wednesday evening, 280 positive cases of coronavirus has been identified in Louisiana. 

10:08 a.m. ET, March 19, 2020

Philippines to stop issuing visas to foreigners

From Isaac Yee in Hong Kong

 

The Philippines will stop issuing visas to foreigners in a bid to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus.

"We are stopping the issuance of visas from all posts abroad and here," Philippines Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. said in a tweet posted on Thursday. "This goes one imperative step forward: a total ban on incoming foreign visitors of all nationalities no exceptions."

Locsin said that foreign visitors in the country will be "given all the help to get out" adding that it would be "idiotic to detain them."

Some context: On Wednesday, the Philippines declared a state of calamity allowing law enforcement agencies as well as the armed forces to be deployed to affected areas in order to ensure peace. The move also made the "Quick Response Fund" available for use by local governments to fight the virus. 

10:06 a.m. ET, March 19, 2020

2 TSA screeners at JFK airport test positive for coronavirus

From CNN's Greg Wallace

Joe Raedle/Getty Images/FILE
Joe Raedle/Getty Images/FILE

The Transportation Security Administration said two baggage screening officers at JFK airport have tested positive for coronavirus. 

One screener last worked on March 13 in Terminal 5 in the checked baggage room. The second screener last worked on March 12 in Terminal 4 in the checked baggage room.

This brings a total of 12 TSA officers who have tested positive.

At least one passenger with confirmed coronavirus case took a JetBlue flight out of JFK on March 11. A second passenger deplaned from a Delta flight on March 16, and after boarding, learned he or she had been exposed to a coronavirus case. It is unclear whether the workers contracted the cases at work or elsewhere.

10:11 a.m. ET, March 19, 2020

Economist says if everyone stays home for 6 months, it's like a "Great Depression"

From CNN’s Poppy Harlow and Haley Draznin

Kevin Hassett
Kevin Hassett CNN

Former Trump administration economist Kevin Hassett says the April jobs report will be “the worst jobs number you ever saw.”

In an interview with CNN’s Poppy Harlow on Thursday, Hassett said that if everyone stays home for six months, “it is like a Great Depression.”

Watch:

9:50 a.m. ET, March 19, 2020

Alabama's Gulf Shores beaches to close due to COVID-19 outbreak

From CNN's Tina Burnside

Orange Beach, Alabama
Orange Beach, Alabama Shutterstock

Gulf Shores Mayor Robert Craft announced via video Thursday morning that the Gulf Shores beaches will close due to the coronavirus pandemic.

"Effective 7 a.m. tomorrow, all public beaches in Gulf Shores will close with a tentative reopen date of Monday, April 6. Additionally, we will be requesting the Baldwin County Commission, Town of Dauphin Island, and City of Orange Beach join us in asking Gov. Kay Ivey to close all Alabama beaches for the same time frame," Craft said.

A state of local emergency was declared for Gulf Shores on Thursday.

9:38 a.m. ET, March 19, 2020

CDC loosens guidelines to allow medical experts exposed to COVID-19 to keep working

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has loosened its guidelines to allow health care workers who have been exposed to COVID-19 to continue working as long as they wear a mask, according to CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

"This is a huge concern, John, because this is how you potentially increase the spread, at least not slow down the spread," Gupta said to CNN's John Berman this morning.

Within the guidelines, the CDC says bandanas and scarves could be used in place of a mask, Gupta said. The reason for these guidelines is due to a lack of personal protective equipment and not enough health care workers, Gupta said.

Watch Gupta's remarks below: