March 20 coronavirus news

By Helen Regan, Joshua Berlinger, Julia Hollingsworth, Adam Renton, Steve George and Fernando Alfonso III, CNN

Updated 9:27 p.m. ET, March 20, 2020
113 Posts
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2:08 p.m. ET, March 20, 2020

Michigan suspends non-essential medical and dental procedures

From CNN's Elizabeth Joseph

Non-essential medical and dental procedures are temporarily restricted across Michigan, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s office said in a statement Friday.

Non-essential medical treatments include joint replacement, bariatric surgery and cosmetic surgery, “except for emergency or trauma-related surgery where postponement would significantly impact the health, safety, and welfare of the patient," the statement said. 

According to the statement, non-essential dental procedures also include cosmetic or aesthetic procedures, like veneers, teeth bleaching or cosmetic bonding, as well as all routine hygiene appointments.

“Our health care workers are on the front lines every day protecting Michiganders during these extraordinary and difficult times. By postponing all non-essential medical and dental procedures, we expect to reduce the strain on the health care system and protect people,” Whitmer said.
2:09 p.m. ET, March 20, 2020

Morocco repatriation flights for US citizens will continue this weekend, State Department official says

From CNN's Jennifer Hansler and Kylie Atwood

The State Department anticipates that repatriation flights from Morocco would continue throughout the weekend, Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs David Schenker said Friday.

“This is the most important duty that our embassies and consulates perform and I'm continually proud of the work done to ensure the safety and well being of American citizens abroad,” Schenker said in a call with reporters.

Schenker said that the US Mission in Morocco fielded “over 3,000 emails” and a phone bank consular staff answered “hundreds of phone calls.”

He said there were more than 1,000 American citizens in Morocco. A senior State Department official said that in their experience there are usually “several times as many individuals who want to get out than that actually contact us.” 

“So the number actually turns out to be much larger,” they said. That official said the repatriation had been “a large logistical effort” and noted they were expecting “half a dozen if not more flights.” They said they would see what the demand was going forward.

“This is the only country in the region, so far, where we've done this effort and gotten this kind of demand, but we understand in countries like Egypt, there are tens of thousands of American citizens and dual nationals, etc, so we'll be looking at what the demand is and what the request is and how to best serve our fellow countrymen going forward,” the official said.

The official could not provide an estimate for Americans in the region when asked. However, they noted that “we are working 24/7 in the field to handle the inflow of requests of information requests.”

“And mind you, that is in some cases with consular staff that has left on authorized departure for health reasons. So just the volume in this unprecedented situation, it's hard to contend with and we’re doing our best,” they said. “I think our people out in the field are doing an amazing, amazing job.”

The senior official said the State Department staff had “gone dramatically to telework."

2:07 p.m. ET, March 20, 2020

More soldiers needed in Italy's hardest hit region to enforce emergency lockdown, governor says

Members of the military aid with the construction of a field hospital, run by non-governmental organisation Samaritans Purse, in a parking lot in Cremona, Italy, on Friday, March 20.
Members of the military aid with the construction of a field hospital, run by non-governmental organisation Samaritans Purse, in a parking lot in Cremona, Italy, on Friday, March 20. Francesca Volpi/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The governor of the hard hit region of Lombardy in northern Italy has said it needs more soldiers than it has been allocated to enforce an emergency lockdown to stop the spread of coronavirus. 

"I made a series of requests to the Prime Minister, one related to the use of the army to ensure that the measures are strictly applied," Gov. Attilio Fontana said during a news conference on Friday. 

"It's being said that 114 soldiers will be sent to Lombardy, which means practically nothing. I think we need to add a zero (to that number) to seriously start discussing the problem."

Fontana warned that the situation is not improving judging by the newest numbers of confirmed cases and deaths.

The Lombardy region is working with the mayors of the municipalities hit by coronavirus to write a list of requests to send to the government.

Among the region's requests, "limitations to physical activity, to all activities in offices and professional ones, closure of construction sites, further limitation in commercial activities," an assessments of the production chains that can be considered "not essential for our region and the country."

1:54 p.m. ET, March 20, 2020

DC mayor announces first coronavirus death

From CNN's Adrienne Winston

Washington, DC, Mayor Muriel Bowser said the district's first coronavirus death is a man in his 50s.

The patient was “a 59-year-old male” who “was admitted to a local hospital last week, presenting with symptoms of fever and cough as well as other underlying medical conditions," she said in a statement, adding that he later tested positive.

"As a community, we must continue to support one another during these uncertain times. Everyone must do their part so that we can blunt the spread and protect our families, friends, and neighbors," Bowser said.
1:57 p.m. ET, March 20, 2020

FDA allows expanded use of remote medical devices for health care workers

From CNN's Shelby Lin Erdman

US Food and Drug Administration
US Food and Drug Administration

The US Food and Drug Administration announced a temporary policy change Friday to allow the expanded use of “FDA-cleared non-invasive, vital sign-measuring devices” so health care workers can monitor coronavirus patients remotely.

The devices include those that can measure body temperature, respiratory and heart rate and blood pressure.

“This policy applies to certain modifications to the indications, claims, functionality, or hardware or software of FDA-cleared non-invasive remote monitoring devices used to support patient monitoring,” the agency said.

The FDA’s Principal Deputy Commissioner Dr. Amy Abernethy said in a statement that the agency wants to “ease burdens on health care providers and facilities” during the national coronavirus public health emergency. 

“Allowing these devices to be used remotely can help health care providers access information about a patient’s vital signs while the patient is at home, reducing the need for hospital visits and minimizing the risk of exposure to coronavirus,” Abernethy said.

1:49 p.m. ET, March 20, 2020

UK government covers wages for virus-hit businesses

UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced a package to protect workers and companies in a bid to preserve millions of jobs amid the downturn sparked by the coronavirus outbreak.

The finance minister said during a daily news conference on Friday that for "the first time in history," the British government would pay 80% of wages of employees who are not working, up to £2,500 ($2,900) a month.

The chancellor said the package would be open to any employer in the UK, covering the cost of wages "backdated to March 1 and will be open before the end of April for at least three months."

He added that a coronavirus business loan package would be interest-free for 12 months and also announced an increase to welfare payments.

"Taken together, I’m announcing over £6 billion ($7 billion) of extra support through the welfare system," he said, calling on businesses to stand by their employees.

The "unprecedented" economic rescue plan comes as Prime Minister Boris Johnson called for the closure of pubs, theaters and restaurants.

4:06 p.m. ET, March 20, 2020

Italy announces 627 coronavirus deaths in 24 hours 

From CNN's Mia Alberti in Lisbon and Nicola Ruotolo in Rome

The number of coronavirus cases in Italy has reached 47,021, the Italian Civil Protection Agency said Friday. 

There have been 627 coronavirus-related deaths in 24 hours.

So far, 4,032 people in Italy have died from the disease.

CORRECTION: This post has been updated to reflect the correct number of total confirmed cases in Italy.

1:33 p.m. ET, March 20, 2020

World Health Organization to young people: "You are not invincible"

From CNN’s Amanda Watts and Jacqueline Howard


The World Health Organization has issued a stark warning to young people during the novel coronavirus pandemic who believe their age may protect them from the disease.

"Today, I have a message for young people: You are not invincible. This coronavirus could put you in hospital for weeks, or even kill you. Even if you don’t get sick, the choices you make about where you go could be the difference between life and death for someone else," WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Friday.

Tedros said he is grateful so many young people are, “spreading the word and not the virus” adding, “every day, we are learning more about this coronavirus and the disease it causes. One of the things we are learning is that although older people are the hardest hit, younger people are not spared.”

"Data from many countries clearly show that people under 50 make up a significant proportion of patients requiring hospitalization,” Tedros said.

1:31 p.m. ET, March 20, 2020

Schumer: "At the moment, the McConnell bill is inadequate"

From CNN's From Ali Zaslav 

Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images
Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said that “at the moment, the McConnell bill is inadequate,” in remarks on the Senate floor Friday.

Schumer added that “We need to work with uncommon speed and make this next bill what it needs to be... Democrats are already at work with our Republican colleagues to get this done.”

Schumer said he spoke with President Trump earlier today and urged him to deploy the Defense Production Act among other things, to which he said, Trump agreed to do so.

“I spoke with President Trump about these five priorities. I mentioned them all and President Trump told me he was open to these ideas. In fact, the president explicitly told me he would oppose companies using bailout money on buybacks, even though such a prohibition is not in McConnell's bill. I also urged the President to immediately deploy the Defense Production Act and harness industry to get ventilators and other critically needed medical equipment to those who need it. He told me he would do so," Schumer said.

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

The proposal's formal rollout sets the stage for Republicans and Democrats to try to reach a bipartisan agreement to move a stimulus package forward as the virus continues to spread.