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
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10:44 a.m. ET, March 20, 2020

Trump administration expected to announce plans to halt non-essential travel on US-Mexico border

By CNN's Priscilla Alvarez, Betsy Klein and Jennifer Hansler

Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf.
Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf. CNN

The Trump administration is expected to announce details Friday on plans to halt non-essential travel on the US-Mexico border in an effort to limit travel amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, according to acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf.

“We’re working with both our Canadian partners as well as our Mexican partners, limiting nonessential travel across that border,” Wolf told reporters Friday. “We want to make sure cargo continues, trade continues, healthcare workers continue to be able to traverse that border. But tourism, some recreational activities need to stop during this crisis.”

Wolf told reporters that more details on a southern border non-essential closure will be announced later Friday. 

The expected action on the southern border appears similar to the one taken on the US border with Canada and marks the latest move by the administration to seal off the United States as coronavirus continues to spread. 

Some context: Over recent weeks, Trump has joined countries across the globe in introducing a slate of travel restrictions, which extend from China to Europe's Schengen Area to the United Kingdom and Ireland, over coronavirus concerns.

In a span of a few days, Trump has also moved to largely shutter the US land borders. 

10:31 a.m. ET, March 20, 2020

Volkswagen Group donates almost 200,000 respiratory masks for public health care

From Nadine Schmidt in Berlin

The Volkswagen Group will donate almost 200,000 respiratory masks for public health care in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, the company said in a statement Friday.

"People working in the public health sector are currently performing outstanding services to society," Volkswagen HR Board Member Gunnar Kilian said, according to the statement. "We are convinced that these face masks will be put to the best use by them."

The group said it will provide FFP-2 and FFP-3 respiratory masks.

"The donation is being made in close cooperation with the Federal Minister of Health, Jens Spahn," according to the statement. "The city of Wolfsburg will also be supported with medical material." 

Kilian added: "Solidarity takes priority for Volkswagen. This principle also applies beyond the factory gate."

10:32 a.m. ET, March 20, 2020

UK social distancing measures should be in place for "most of year," government advisers say

From CNN's Emma Reynolds

Mounted police patrol a quiet street in the City of London, adopting social distancing on horseback, as the UK's coronavirus epicentre is concentrated in London, Friday March 20.
Mounted police patrol a quiet street in the City of London, adopting social distancing on horseback, as the UK's coronavirus epicentre is concentrated in London, Friday March 20. Jonathan Brady/PA via AP

Restrictions on social contact in the United Kingdom will need to be in place for “at least most of a year” to ensure the coronavirus outbreak is kept under control, the government’s scientific advisers have said.

The strict measures on “social distancing,” such as advising people not to socialize in restaurants, closing schools and keeping vulnerable groups at home, will only be effective if used all together and for a prolonged period, they said. Otherwise, at the peak of the outbreak, the UK’s public health service would be overwhelmed.

The conclusions are contained in a set of papers from Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE), which provides scientific and technical advice to government decision makers during emergencies, published by the government on Friday.

While Prime Minister Boris Johnson said earlier this week that coronavirus could be beaten within 12 weeks, the documents suggested the effort would last considerably longer.

Some more background: In a document dated March 16, the advisers said that isolation and the social distancing of vulnerable groups alone were “very unlikely to prevent critical care facilities being overwhelmed."

If the government added school closures and wider social distancing, that “would be likely to control the epidemic when kept in place for a long period” and should be implemented “as soon as practical.”

It said that authorities could alternate between strict and more relaxed social distancing measures. But in total, restrictions would need to be in place for at least a year, with the stricter measures enacted for at least six months.

The government has been criticized for not making its advice mandatory — particularly in London, where the spread of the virus is more advanced than in the rest of the UK.

10:24 a.m. ET, March 20, 2020

More than 200 first responders in Washington, DC, are under quarantine

DC Fire & EMS tweeted that there are 141 Washington, DC, firefighters and 70 police officers in quarantine due to the novel coronavirus.

Read the tweet:

10:17 a.m. ET, March 20, 2020

Treasury Secretary: US tax filing deadline moved to July 15

From CNN's Kevin Liptak


Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin announced on Friday that the Trump administration will move the tax filing deadline from April 15 to July 15.

"At @realDonaldTrump’s direction, we are moving Tax Day from April 15 to July 15. All taxpayers and businesses will have this additional time to file and make payments without interest or penalties," Mnuchin wrote on Twitter

The White House had announced previously it would be deferring tax payments. 

10:20 a.m. ET, March 20, 2020

State Department suspending visa services at all embassies and consulates

From CNN's Jennifer Hansler

Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images/FILE
Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images/FILE

The State Department is suspending routine visa services at all embassies and consulates worldwide due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“In response to significant worldwide challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Department of State is temporarily suspending routine visa services at all U.S. Embassies and Consulates,” the department said in an advisory posted on Friday. “Embassies and consulates will cancel all routine immigrant and non-immigrant visa appointments as of March 20, 2020."

The move comes following the State Department’s issuance of a global Level 4 Travel Advisory urging Americans not to travel abroad.

The department also announced Thursday that it was suspending regular passport services and only offering services for those with “life-or-death” emergencies.

“As resources allow, embassies and consulates will continue to provide urgent and emergency visa services. Our overseas missions will resume routine visa services as soon as possible but are unable to provide a specific date at this time," the department said in the advisory on Friday.

10:12 a.m. ET, March 20, 2020

Georgia is working to expedite nursing licenses to confront coronavirus

From CNN's Dianne Gallagher 

 Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger
Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger Bob Andres//Atlanta Journal-Constitution/AP

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger is taking action to expedite licensing for healthcare professionals who come to Georgia to help fight the spread of Covid-19.

The Georgia Board of Nursing will begin issuing temporary permits to nursing professionals licensed in other states who come to Georgia in response to the declaration of a public health state of emergency in Georgia.

These licenses will receive expedited review, less than 24 hours for a temporary license and less than seven days for a regular application, to better respond to the public health threat.

"Fighting, defeating, and overcoming coronavirus in Georgia and across the country will require enlisting the help of the best and brightest medical professionals available" Raffensperger said. 

The Georgia Board of Nursing is under the Professional Licensing Boards, a Division of the Office of the Secretary of State.

10:07 a.m. ET, March 20, 2020

Northern Italy sends patients to other regions of the country as hospital ICUs reach capacity

From Sharon Braithwaite in Rome and Pierre Bairin in Paris


A northern Italian city has been hit so hard by coronavirus that it is now sending patients who need intensive care to other parts of the country, a doctor in the city of Bergamo told CNN Friday.

“Bergamo is sending ICU patients to other regions because we ran out (of space),” Dr. Stefano Magnone, a hospital doctor in Bergamo, said. 

Magnone said that also the ICU in the hospitals in the province of Brescia are full.

“Around 50 patients were sent out of Lombardy to other regions, mainly in the south,” Magnone said. 

Brescia is the second worst affected province, according to the Italian Civil Protection Department. 

“We're waiting for the field hospital” to be built, Magnone said.

Bergamo Mayor Giorgio Gori announced on Thursday evening that a new field hospital will be built inside the fairground and exhibition facility in the city.

“It will be organized by the National Alpini Association but managed by the doctors that are on their way,” the mayor said. 

The new field hospital “will bring relief to our hospitals. It is the first real response received by the national institutions, so let me thank them,” he said.

“The regional affairs minister Francesco Boccia talked about 100 doctors (to be sent) in Lombardy and the Italian Prime Minister talked about sending 300 doctors to the worst affected areas,” Gori said. “Italy has finally noticed the suffering of Bergamo and our province. But we need even more doctors."

The region especially needs infectious disease experts, respiratory physicians and anesthesiologists, the mayor said. 

9:57 a.m. ET, March 20, 2020

Head of United Nations' World Food Programme tests positive for coronavirus

From CNN Health's Jacqueline Howard

Jekesai Njikizana/AFP/Getty Images/FILE
Jekesai Njikizana/AFP/Getty Images/FILE

David Beasley, head of the United Nations' World Food Programme (WFP), has Covid-19, according to a statement released on Thursday.

Beasley said in a written statement that he is now working with his WFP team to trace back anyone he may have been in close contact with during the time he was unaware of the infection. 

"We have already started the process of reaching out to alert each and every one of them so that they are made aware that there is a risk that they too may be infected with the virus," Beasley, a former governor of South Carolina, said in the statement. 

Beasley aded: "I began feeling unwell this past weekend after returning to my home in the United States from an official visit to Canada and I took an early decision to go into self-quarantine, five days ago. So far, my symptoms have been relatively light, and I am in good spirits. I am lucky to be close to my family and I have access to excellent medical support."