140 dead in US, Italy coronavirus fatalities continue to soar

(NEW YORK) — An outbreak of the novel coronavirus that began in China about three months ago has now infected more than 9,345 people across all 50 U.S. states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico.

The newly identified virus, which causes a respiratory illness known as COVID-19, has killed at least 140 people in the United States, according to ABC News’ count.

The disease has spread to every continent except Antarctica, infecting more than 218,000 people globally and killing over 8,800, according to data compiled by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University.

Governments around the world have implemented travel restrictions, border closures and lockdowns in an effort to slow the spread.

Here’s how the news unfolded Wednesday. All times Eastern:

10:30 p.m. Wuhan, China, reports no new cases for first time since surge

China’s health ministry announced that Wuhan and its surrounding Hubei province, the epicenter of the virus’ outbreak, have reported no new cases in a day for the first time since the rise of the coronavirus pandemic.

Wuhan saw thousands of new infections daily at the height of the country’s coronavirus crisis and Hubei province has tallied over 3,100 deaths since the start in December 2019.

Mainland China reported 34 new cases of coronavirus, including 21 in Beijing, over the last 24 hours, but they each stemmed from people arriving from abroad, the health ministry said.

9:30 p.m. ICE suspends community arrests amid ongoing crisis

Immigration and Customs Enforcement will significantly scale back apprehensions of undocumented immigrants and limit arrests of immigrants without criminal records due to concerns over the coronavirus, ICE officials confirmed Wednesday.

The agency described the change as an adjustment to its “enforcement posture,” saying it will instead focus on “public safety risks” rather than arresting those with no prior criminal record.

The decision follows an outpouring of requests from immigration advocates to halt enforcement actions.

Earlier Wednesday, the Justice Department announced it would temporarily shutter immigration courts that hear cases for those who are not in ICE detention.

9:00 p.m. Second congressman tests positive for COVID-19

Rep. Ben McAdams, D-Utah, revealed that he tested positive for coronavirus on Wednesday night, just hours after Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla., announced his diagnosis.

McAdams said he developed “mild cold-like symptoms” after returning home from Washington, D.C., on Saturday.

“In consultation with my doctor on Sunday, I immediately isolated myself in my home,” McAdams said in a statement Wednesday. “My symptoms got worse and I developed a fever, a dry cough and labored breathing and I remained self-quarantined.”

He said was notified of his results on Wednesday.

A growing list of representatives said they would be self-isolating Wednesday night, including Reps. Drew Ferguson, R-Ga.; Steve Scalise, R-La.; Ann Wagner, R-Mo.; and Stephanie Murphy, D-Fla.

8 p.m. 12 TSA officers test positive for coronavirus

The Transportation Security Administration said 12 of its officers had tested positive for the coronavirus as of Wednesday evening.

The four most recent confirmed cases included one agent working at Newark Liberty International Airport, one at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport and two at JFK International Airport.

The Newark officer’s last day of work was March 14. The JFK officers’ last days at work were March 12 and March 13, respectively. And the Fort Lauderdale officer’s last day of work was March 10.

ABC News previously spoke with Everett Kelley, national president of the union that represents TSA workers, who has called on the agency to provide employees with N95 masks.

“TSA is not even providing any form of mask for the TSO,” Kelley told ABC News. “I also think that the N95 mask would be a lot safer than what they have.”

Currently the agency is allowing front line personnel to wear surgical masks only “if they choose to do so.”

7:30 p.m. Nissan joins major automakers in halting US production

Japanese automaker Nissan joined Ford, GM, Fiat-Chrysler and Toyota in temporarily suspending production at manufacturing facilities in the U.S.

Beginning March 20, the company said it will halt production at U.S. facilities through April 6 with hopes to “boost containment efforts where possible around the COVID-19 coronavirus.”

Areas deemed business-essential will continue to operate with enhanced safety measures, according to the statement.
 
7:10 P.M.: Rep. Diaz-Balart tests positive for cornonavirus

Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla., said he has tested positive for coronavirus, becoming the first congressman to do so.

“I want you to know that I am feeling much better,” he said in a statement Wednesday. “However, it is important that everyone take this extremely seriously and follow CDC guidelines in order to avoid getting sick and mitigate the spread of this virus.”

Diaz-Balart, 58, said he began experiencing fever and headaches while working in Washington, D.C., over the weekend. He has decided to self-quarantined away from his wife, who he said has pre-existing health conditions.

The congressman was on the House floor as recently as Saturday morning to vote for coronavirus relief legislation.

6:40 p.m.: JPMorgan Chase temporarily shutters 1,000 branches

JPMorgan Chase announced that it would temporarily close 1,000 locations, or about 20% of its branches, making it the first major U.S. bank to close some of its doors due to the outbreak.

“Our temporarily smaller footprint will allow us to provide appropriate coverage in every market we serve so we can continue to serve our clients with the services they need,” a spokesperson told ABC News.

Executives said they are closing about a fifth of its Chase branches to protect its staff and customers. The approximate 4,000 remaining branches will give some staff the option to work from home and reduce weekday hours, according to a memo sent to staff on Wednesday.

The closures do not include drive-up facilities.

4:59 p.m.: New York Stock Exchange to temporarily move to electronic trading

The New York Stock Exchange will temporarily move to fully electronic trading beginning March 23.

All NYSE markets will still operate under normal trading hours.

A date to reopen trading floors hasn’t been determined.

4:40 p.m.: 10 new deaths in Seattle area

In King County, Washington, which includes Seattle — hard-hit by the outbreak — 10 more people died from coronavirus on Wednesday, officials said.

That brings the fatality total in King County to 56, public health officials said.

There are 562 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the county, including 44 new cases Wednesday.

“We expect the case count to double every 5–7 days unless these orders to stay away from others are followed diligently,” public health officials warned.

4:28 p.m.: Honda, Ford, GM, Fiat-Chrysler, Toyota temporarily stopping North America production

Honda said it’s temporarily suspending production at North American plants from March 23 to March 31, reducing production by about 40,000 cars, due to an anticipated decline in demand.

Honda will continue to give full pay during that period and use the time to focus on continued cleaning, the company said.

Ford also said its suspending its U.S., Canadian and Mexican manufacturing facilities from Thursday night to March 30 to clean and sanitize plants.

Ford already temporarily closed its Michigan Assembly Plant final assembly building on Wednesday after an employee tested positive for coronavirus, Ford said.

A “thoroughly cleaning and disinfecting” effort is underway at the plant and those who have had contact with that employee are being told to self-quarantine, Ford said.

General Motors followed suit, announcing its suspending North American facilities until at least March 30 “due to market conditions and to deep clean facilities.”

Fiat-Chrysler also said Wednesday it’s stopping production at North American plants until the end of March.

Toyota said it’s stopping North America production on March 23 and 24 and will resume March 25.

4:20 p.m.: Senate passes ‘phase-2’ coronavirus stimulus measure

The Senate Wednesday afternoon passed the House-passed “phase two” coronavirus stimulus bill.

The phase-two bill includes free COVID-19 testing, expansion of food security programs like SNAP and WIC, and more unemployment insurance funding.

The bill passed by a vote of 90-8. Those who voted against the bill are Republican Sens. James Lankford, Mike Lee, Rand Paul, Tim Scott, Marsha Blackburn, Ben Sasse, Ron Johnson and James Inhoffe.

The bill now moves to President Donald Trump’s desk.

2:00 p.m.: All UK schools to close

All schools in the United Kingdom will be closed from Friday until further notice, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced.

1:43 p.m.: Honda, Ford, GM temporarily stopping North America production

Honda said it’s temporarily suspending production at North American plants from March 23 to March 31, reducing production by about 40,000 cars, due to an anticipated decline in demand.

Honda will continue to give full pay during that period and use the time to focus on continued cleaning, the company said.

Ford also said its suspending its U.S., Canadian and Mexican manufacturing facilities from Thursday night to March 30 to clean and sanitize plants.

Ford already temporarily closed its Michigan Assembly Plant final assembly building on Wednesday after an employee tested positive for coronavirus, Ford said.

A “thoroughly cleaning and disinfecting” effort is underway at the plant and those who have had contact with that employee are being told to self-quarantine, Ford said.

General Motors followed suit, announcing its suspending North American facilities until at least March 30 “due to market conditions and to deep clean facilities.”

1:34 p.m.: Italy’s death toll continues to soar

Italy, where residents are on lockdown amid the pandemic, is reporting 475 new coronavirus deaths in the last 24 hours.

 That brings Italy’s total number of COVID-19 fatalities to 2,978, the country’s Civil Protection Agency reported.

The total number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Italy has soared to 35,713, according to the Civil Protection Agency.

12:45 p.m.: Government recommends all nonessential medical procedures be limited

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Seema Verma said Wednesday that CMS will announce regulations limiting “nonessential elective medical and surgical procedures, including dental procedures,” in order to help prioritize essential health activities.
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“We believe that these recommendations will help surgeons, patients, and hospitals prioritize what is essential, while leaving the ultimate decision to the heads of state and local health officials and those clinicians who have direct responsibility to their patients,” Verma said. “And we urge providers and clinicians and patients to seriously consider these recommendations.”

12:30 p.m.: HUD suspending foreclosures, evictions

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development will suspend all foreclosures and evictions until the end of April, President Donald Trump announced at a coronavirus briefing at the White House Wednesday.

Some local governments, including New York state and Los Angeles, had already temporarily banned evictions.

12:20 p.m.: Honda temporarily suspends North America production

Honda said it’s temporarily suspending production at North American plants from March 23 to March 31, reducing production by about 40,000 cars, due to an anticipated decline in demand.
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Honda will continue to give full pay during that period, the company said.

11:45 a.m.: Hospital ship USNS Comfort headed to NYC harbor

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday that all businesses in the state must limit its workforce in the office to 50%.

“If it doesn’t slow the spread, we will reduce the number of workers even further,” he said. “That 50% can be calibrated.”

New York state has a total of 2,382 coronavirus cases and 20 deaths, the governor said.

Cuomo said he spoke with President Donald Trump who is dispatching the hospital ship USNS Comfort to New York City’s harbor where it can act as a floating hospital.

Cuomo said he and Trump also discussed setting up mobile hospitals.

10:32 a.m.: Italy’s virus-hit region ‘soon’ won’t be able to help sick, official says

Medical facilities in northern Italy’s virus-hit Lombardy region will “soon” be unable to help the sick, the regional governor said Wednesday.

Lombardy’s governor, Attilio Fontana, urged everyone in the region to stay home.

“Unfortunately the numbers of the contagion are not falling, they continue to be high,” Fontana told reporters, as quoted by Italian news agency ANSA. “We will soon be unable to give a response to those who fall ill.”

“Stay at home,” he added. “If you don’t understand that, we’ll have to be more aggressive.”

With more than 31,500 confirmed cases, Italy has the second-highest national total behind China, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Systems Science and Engineering.

A majority of Italy’s confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus have been reported in the Lombardy region.

10:12 a.m. U.S. to close border with Canada

The United States will temporarily close its northern border with Canada to “non-essential traffic,” U.S. President Donald Trump announced via Twitter on Wednesday morning.

 

We will be, by mutual consent, temporarily closing our Northern Border with Canada to non-essential traffic. Trade will not be affected. Details to follow!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 18, 2020

 

Trump said the decision was made by “mutual consent,” and that “trade will not be affected.”

9:24 a.m. White House submits additional funding request to Congress

The White House on Tuesday night submitted an additional funding request to Congress, requesting $45.8 billion more — in addition to the trillion-dollar package currently being negotiated — in order to cover unanticipated costs for an array of federal agencies fighting the coronavirus.

The White House wants to provides $16.6 billion for Veterans Affairs, $11.5 billion for Health and Human Services, $8.3 billion for the Department of Defense and $3.2 billion for the Department of Homeland Security. The rest would go to over a dozen other federal agencies, according to the White House’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB).

8:00 a.m. Confirmed cases top 200,000 worldwide, global death toll exceeds 8,000

The worldwide number of confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus topped 200,000 while the global death toll surpassed 8,000 on Wednesday morning, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Systems Science and Engineering.

The majority of cases and fatalities were still reported in China, but that percentage is continuing to diminish as the outbreak worsens in other countries such as Italy, Iran and the United States.

7:45 a.m. U.S. doctor on the frontlines speaks out: ‘We don’t have the resources for this’

A doctor on the frontlines of the fight against the novel coronavirus in the United States warned that hospitals are already running low on lifesaving resources, even as the outbreak has yet to reach a peak.

“If this peaks early and it peaks hard, we don’t have the resources for this and we’ll run out of ventilators and space,” Dr. Stephen Anderson, an emergency physician in Auburn, Washington, told ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos in an interview Wednesday on Good Morning America.

“There’s no question, we need quicker and more tests, we certainly need more space to place people, we need ventilators,” Anderson continued. “I have ventilators this morning, but the hospital up the street from me is out of ventilators at the moment.”
 
Anderson also noted that health care workers on the frontlines, like himself, are in dire need of personal protective gear.

“I’ve got my mask for today right here and I’m guarding it with my life because it could be my life. We reportedly have two days’ supply,” he added. “We really don’t have a deep bullpen. If people get sick and they’re out, that takes people off the frontlines to help with this. But by the same token, you don’t want to be sick and be around the people that are coming to the emergency department who are already the sickest people in most need in America. So we are trying to test our health care workers as quickly and efficiently as we can and getting them back in the ballgame, if possible.”

Anderson said “there’s a lot of stress” among medical professionals right now, and he described the mood as “frightening.”

“In 35 years of practice, I can say that this is the most anxiety that I have ever seen around the idea of an infectious disease,” he said. “We are on the frontlines and it’s scary, that’s where the casualties always happen in any battle.”

Anderson emphasized the importance of flattening the curve of the outbreak to keep the spread of the disease at a manageable level for health care workers.

“We need to make sure that if this goes on into June, that it’s a gradual rise and fall,” he said. “And the way that we need to do that right now is by socially isolating ourselves and hunkering down so that we don’t spread the virus.”

6:07 a.m. Virus now present in all European countries as Montenegro confirms first cases

The novel coronavirus has now spread to all European nations as Montenegro confirmed its first cases late Tuesday night.

Until now, Montenegro was the only country in Europe without a single confirmed case of COVID-19. The government has taken measures to prevent the outbreak from reaching the country, including closing its borders for foreigners, shutting schools and banning public gatherings.

Montenegro’s prime minister, Dusko Markovic, revealed the country’s first two confirmed cases in a press conference late on Tuesday. The patients are both women — one is in her late 40s and the other is in her early 70s.

One of the patients had recently returned from Spain, where nearly 12,000 people are infected with the virus, while the other had returned from the United States, where nearly 6,500 people are infected.

The two patients are currently hospitalized in a special ward of a medical clinic in Podgorica, the capital. Both are in stable condition, according to Markovic.

“It is clear that the first cases of infections were not unexpected and it is very likely that soon new cases will be discovered,” Markovic said.

Calling on his European neighbors to show solidarity during the pandemic, Montenegro’s prime minister said his country’s ports will remain available to other nations in the region “to keep the flow of goods and its borders open to trade and supply.”

“It is up to us, the leaders of the region, to set an example and make decisions as good neighbors to each other,” Markovic said.

5:27 a.m. Schools close in 39 U.S. states

Thirty-nine states have decided to close schools as of Tuesday night, according to the news journal Education Week.

Combined with direct closures in other states, at least 91,000 public and private schools across the country are closed, are scheduled to close or were closed and later reopened, affecting some 41.6 million students, Education Week reported.

There are a total of 98,277 public schools and 34,576 private schools in the United States, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

3:48 a.m. Wuhan, China, reports just one new case for second straight day

The Chinese city of Wuhan, the original epicenter of the novel coronavirus outbreak, reported just one new confirmed case for the second day in a row.

China’s National Health Commission recorded only one new case of confirmed infection in Hubei province on both Monday and Tuesday. Each was reported in the city of Wuhan, where the very first cases of the novel coronavirus emerged back in December.

Overall, the Chinese mainland has reported 80,894 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 3,237 deaths, with a vast majority in Wuhan and the surrounding Hubei province. While China still compromises the bulk of the world’s cases, that proportion is shrinking by the day as the epidemic appears to slow down in China and expand abroad, particularly in Europe.

With more than 31,500 confirmed cases, Italy has the second-highest national behind China, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Systems Science and Engineering.

3:25 a.m. U.S. hospital association warns of ventilator shortage

The largest national hospital organization in the United States is urging Americans to adhere to the recommended health precautions amid the coronavirus outbreak so the health care system doesn’t become overwhelmed with patients.

“There are limited supplies of ventilators and hospital beds, which is why hospitals and public health officials all across the country are urging the public to follow the guidance of the CDC and other public health leaders on social distancing and other actions,” Nancy Foster, vice president for quality and patient safety policy at the American Hospital Association, told ABC News in a statement Tuesday night. “The best way not to overtax the health care system is to keep more people healthy. That is the reason public events have been canceled, schools are closed, businesses are instituting telework policies where possible, and other changes have been made to the way we routinely lead our lives.”

In addition to the guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services “has told nursing homes and other health care facilities that house our most vulnerable patients to severely limit visitors and group events,” according to Foster.

“This will reduce the surge of acutely ill patients that hospitals will see, and hopefully ensure we experience a manageable level of demand,” she added. “Hospitals and our dedicated doctors and nurses are doing their part to combat this virus. We hope everyone else will as well.”

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