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

Atlanta mayor signs executive order closing bars and gyms

From CNN's Tina Burnside

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms tweeted Thursday that she has signed an executive order that will limit restaurants to takeout as well as closing bars and gyms.

"The fate of cities across the globe will be upon soon if we do not follow recommendations on ways to slow the spread of the coronavirus," Bottoms said. 

The order will go into effect at midnight on Friday. 

12:20 p.m. ET, March 19, 2020

Two emergency room doctors test positive for coronavirus in Illinois

From CNN's Melissa Alonso

Two emergency room physicians at Rush Oak Park Hospital in Illinois tested positive for novel coronavirus and are isolated at home, according to a statement from hospital spokesperson Nancy Di Fiore.  

"One doctor has not been seeing patients for several days prior, when he would have been contagious," the statement said.

"The other may have had patient and peer contact and we are assessing the overall risk of exposure," according to the statement. 

Di Fiore said the cases were likely "community acquired."

"In these uncertain times, one thing is for certain staff in our healthcare systems are heroes for providing comfort and care under difficult circumstances with a highly transmissible disease," the statement said. 

12:14 p.m. ET, March 19, 2020

US Surgeon General appeals to young people to donate blood during the coronavirus outbreak

Evan Vucci/AP
Evan Vucci/AP

US Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams called on young people — especially millennials and members of Generation Z  — to consider donating blood during the coronavirus outbreak.

"One donation can save up to three lives. Blood centers are opening now and in need of your donation," Adams said.

He continued: "Blood donation is safe and blood centers are taking extra precautions including spacing beds 6 feet apart and disinfecting surfaces between between patients and temperature checking staffs and encouraging donors making appointments ahead of time so we can space them out." 

12:10 p.m. ET, March 19, 2020

India's Modi encourages country to come together to applaud officials working to combat coronavirus

From CNN's Swati Gupta in New Delhi

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi encouraged the nation to come together Sunday night to applaud the efforts of those involved in fighting the novel coronavirus.

In an address to the nation Thursday, Modi asked that all citizens stand on their balconies at 5 p.m. local on Sunday and clap or ring bells for five minutes as a show of appreciation for medical staff, police, government workers and others involved in working to combat the coronavirus pandemic.

The prime minister also asked the nation to "not get complacent" and encouraged people to not leave their homes unless it is an emergency. 

Modi also announced the formation of an economic task force headed by the finance minister to try and mitigate the economic situation surrounding coronavirus. 

“They will decide the steps needed to be taken to combat the economic crisis caused by this pandemic,” Modi said. 

Modi added that people should not be hoarding supplies. 

"We are taking all steps to ensure that there is no shortage of food, essential supplies and drugs," Modi said, adding, "panic buying is not right."

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

Public health expert says the number of people testing positive is "increasing" in US

Evan Vucci/AP
Evan Vucci/AP

Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus task force coordinator, praised the practice of self-isolation and the increase in testing in helping to tackle this pandemic.

"The number of test positives is increasing. That's a dramatically important signature that everybody is doing their job. Those with mild symptoms are staying home, self-isolating. Those with serious symptoms are coming forward to getting testing. Our test positive rates are in the 10 to 11% range," Birx said.

More on this: Birx said during Wednesday’s briefing at the White House that the coronavirus task force is concerned about reports indicating that more young people are becoming seriously ill from coronavirus, suggesting they may have continued to be exposed to the virus because they weren’t concerned about being at risk.

“There are concerning reports coming out of France and Italy about some young people getting seriously ill and very seriously ill in the ICUs,” Birx said.


12:13 p.m. ET, March 19, 2020

FDA commissioner explains what "compassionate use" entails with coronavirus drugs

Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images
Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

Following President Trump's remarks about vaccines and therapies being developed to address coronavirus, Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn spoke in detail about the important of "compassionate use" in the testing of these options.

"If there is an experimental drug that's potentially available, a doctor could ask for that drug to be used in a patient. We have criteria for that and speedy approval for that. The important thing about compassion use, and that's what the President meant, this is beyond right to try, that we get to collect the information about that," Hahn said.

Hahn added: "One of the things promising to the people is we'll collect the data and make the absolute right decisions based on the data of the safety and efficacy of the treatments. We are working expeditiously to make sure these products are safe and effective as it possibly could be."


11:57 a.m. ET, March 19, 2020

FDA commissioner: "I have great hope for how we are going to come out of this situation"

Dr. Stephen Hahn
Dr. Stephen Hahn Evan Vucci/AP

Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn was optimistic today when discussing the progress made in finding a way to eliminate the coronavirus.

"I have great hope for how we are going to come out of this situation. What's important is not to provide falsehood, but provide hope," Hahn said moments ago.

Hahn added that it's the FDA's "responsibility to the American people is to ensure that products are safe and effective" when discussing the drugs and therapeutic options being explored to address the coronavirus.

11:53 a.m. ET, March 19, 2020

Trump says antimalarial will soon be available to treat coronavirus

From CNN's Kevin Liptak

Evan Vucci/AP
Evan Vucci/AP

President Trump says he’s pushed the Food and Drug Administration to eliminate barriers to getting therapeutics for coronavirus to patients.

He said a drug currently used as an antimalarial — hydroxychloroquine — would be made available almost immediately to treat coronavirus.

"It’s been around for a long time, so we know if things don’t go as planned, it’s not going to kill anybody,” Trump told reporters at the White House today.

Trump said it was a common drug and would soon be available for “prescribed use” on coronavirus. He called it a “game-changer."

"We have to remove every barrier or a lot of barriers that were unnecessary and they’ve done that to get the rapid deployment of safe, effective treatments and we think we have some good answers,” Trump said.
12:04 p.m. ET, March 19, 2020

Trump: We are developing vaccine as "fast as it can possibly be done"

Evan Vucci/AP
Evan Vucci/AP

President Trump spoke at lengths moments ago about the developments that are underway to produce a coronavirus vaccine.

"So we slashed red tape to develop vaccines and therapies as fast as it can possibly be done, long before anybody else was even thinking about doing this. As you know, earlier this week we began the first clinical trial of a vaccine candidate for the virus," Trump said from the White House.

Trump went on to discuss the clinical trials underway for new coronavirus therapies and "scaling these to allow many more Americans to access different drugs that have shown really good promise."

"We've had some really good promise. We will do so in a way that lets us continue to collect the data to know when," Trump said.

Trump added: "We have a couple that we're in really good shape on. And that's for immediate delivery. Immediate, like as fast as we can get it. The FDA has also approved compassionate use for a significant number of patients."

Trump also said the FDA is reviewing usage of drugs that are approved abroad or those approved here for other uses.