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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1:03 p.m. ET, March 19, 2020

Trump on repercussions for China: "We're working on that right now"

From CNN's Nikki Carvajal

Evan Vucci/AP
Evan Vucci/AP

President Trump said he is considering “repercussions” for the Chinese government’s handling of coronavirus, after days of placing the blame for the virus on the country. 

“It would have been much better if we had known about this a number of months earlier,” the President said at a news conference Thursday. “It could have been contained to that one area in China where it started. And certainly the world is paying a big price for what they did.”

Some context: Trump was initially very complimentary of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s handling of the outbreak, but in recent days he has taken to calling COVID-19 the “Chinese virus.”

After consulting with medical experts, and receiving guidance from the World Health Organization, CNN has determined that that name is both inaccurate and stigmatizing.

The President also expressed skepticism of China’s claim that they had no new cases of coronavirus Thursday.

“As far as believing what they’re putting out now, I hope it’s true,” he said. “Who knows? But I hope it’s true.”

When asked if he was considering repercussions on the country, Trump answered: “We’re working on that right now.”

12:51 p.m. ET, March 19, 2020

Trump says he hopes members of Congress who test positive for coronavirus get better

From CNN's Betsy Klein

President Trump on Thursday reacted to news that multiple members of Congress have been diagnosed with coronavirus.

“I know all of them. I don’t know if they’re sitting like you people are sitting, you’re actually sitting too close,” Trump said, apparently joking that he’d like to “get rid” of about 75-80% of the reporters in the briefing room.

“But look, I know all of them. They tested positive. Hopefully they’ll all going to get better. It’s one of those things, it’s Congress,” Trump said.

He noted that many members have self-quarantined and that “most people” diagnosed with the virus “are getting better… doesn’t mean it’s not a tough one.” He praised the measures many members have taken.

“I think Congress has behaved unbelievably well in that regard,” he said.


12:51 p.m. ET, March 19, 2020

Will the 15 day social distancing guidelines be extended? We'll know on day 14, Trump says

From CNN's Betsy Klein

Evan Vucci/AP
Evan Vucci/AP

President Trump wasn’t able to provide any specifics when asked when life will get back to normal for Americans who are practicing social distancing.

“I hope very soon. We’ll see. This is unchartered territory as you know… I would hope very soon,” he said.

Asked later whether he expects the 15-day guidelines to be extended, he said, “I can only tell you on the 14th day. We’ll have to see.”

12:46 p.m. ET, March 19, 2020

Trump says Japan's prime minister has not made a decision about the Olympics

President Trump said he discussed the possibility of canceling the Olympics with other world leaders on a call recently, including Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe who is hosting the event.

Trump deferred to Abe on whether the Olympics will go on as planned this summer.

"We'd live with his decision," Trump said, referring to Abe.

He added that Abe "has told us he has not made a decision."

12:42 p.m. ET, March 19, 2020

Trump on possibility of losing jobs: "I don't think anyone believes that's going to happen"

Evan Vucci/AP
Evan Vucci/AP

President Trump was asked about comments made days ago by his former head economist Kevin Hassett who said that the US could lose 1 million jobs in March because of the coronavirus outbreak. Trump said he disagreed with Hassett's comments.

"I don't think anyone believes that's going to happen," he said.

The President continued by saying that if the US can get "this thing wrapped up and finished earlier" he thinks it could work out "nicely" for the economy.

12:39 p.m. ET, March 19, 2020

Pence says "the private sector" will provide enough medical equipment

From CNN's Nikki Carvajal

Vice President Mike Pence stressed “the private sector” will help get more medical supplies to hospitals across the country, but there’s widespread skepticism that will be enough.

“We continue to work with healthcare providers and businesses to identify more supplies, much more importantly across the private sector,” he said.

Companies have now increased “by tens of millions” their production of N95 masks, according to the vice president.

“On the subject of ventilators,” he continued, “we are working with healthcare providers around America and suppliers we literally identified tens of thousands ventilators can be converted to treat patients.”

“We are remaining confident that we'll have the ventilators that we need as the coronavirus makes its way across America,” he assured.

The Department of Homeland Security estimates that should the virus become "very severe" 38 million people will need medical care, and 9.6 million people will need hospitalization. Of those, an estimated 2.9 million people will need to be admitted to intensive care units, easily overwhelming the nation's current capacity.

12:36 p.m. ET, March 19, 2020

Trump says it's the responsibility of state governors to get medical supplies out

From CNN's Kevin Liptak 

Evan Vucci/AP
Evan Vucci/AP

President Trump said governors should be responsible for ensuring medical workers have sufficient supplies for combatting coronavirus, saying he stopped short of utilizing the Defense Production Act because he believes it’s a state role.

"Governors are supposed to be doing a lot of this work,” Trump said. “The federal government is not supposed to be out there buying vast amounts of items, and then shipping. We're not a shipping clerk.”

Trump said governors should also be responsible for testing, and claimed no one could have predicted the need for ventilators.

“Nobody in their wildest dreams would have thought we would need tens of thousands of ventilators,” Trump said.

Asked when he would put the Defense Production Act into use, he said he’d know shortly.

“We don't want to do it as it happens but before it happens. We'll know a lot the next two or three days,” he said.

12:33 p.m. ET, March 19, 2020

Trump says Carnival Cruise will provide ships for medical use

From CNN's Betsy Klein

President Trump announced Thursday that he spoke with Carnival Cruise chairman Micky Arison, who has said he will make some ships from his fleet available to complement the work of US Navy hospital ships.

“This morning, I spoke with Micky Arison of Carnival Cruise Lines and he’s going to make ships available. So in addition to the big medical ships that you have coming, if we need ships with lots of rooms, they’ll be docked at New York and Los Angeles and San Francisco, different places,” he said.
12:29 p.m. ET, March 19, 2020

Pence says "tens of thousands" of Americans are being tested daily 

From CNN's Nikki Carvajal

Evan Vucci/AP
Evan Vucci/AP

Vice President Mike Pence, the head of the Trump administration’s coronavirus task force, said that “tens of thousands” of tests are being conducted across the country daily, and testing centers are now required by law to report those test numbers.

“Because of the public private partnership that the President initiated several weeks ago, tens and thousands of tests are being performed every day,” Pence said at a Thursday press briefing at the White House.

In addition, he said, “state and private labs are now required by law to report all coronavirus testing directly to the CDC, which will give the American public and our research timely and important information.”

More context: The administration has come under increasing criticism in recent days for being unable to say how many people in the United States have been tested.  

Still, Pence encouraged only those with symptoms to get tested, despite the possibility of asymptomatic spread. “It is important for every American to remember, if you don't have symptoms, you don't need the test,” he said.