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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4:38 p.m. ET, March 20, 2020

Connecticut governor asks all non-essential employees to "stay home to stay safe"

From CNN's Sheena Jones

Jessica Hill/AP/File
Jessica Hill/AP/File

Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont has asked all non-essential employees to "stay home to stay safe" at least for the "foreseeable future."

This announcement Friday comes after the state confirmed 194 Covid-19 cases and four deaths.

This is an executive order and businesses could be subjected to fines if they stay open, Lamont said. The order has not been officially signed yet, but will be later today and guidance will be issued, officials said at the presser. 

The order is expected to go into effect by 8 p.m. ET Monday.

During a press conference on Friday, the governor called for more people to donate medical equipment to the hospitals of Connecticut, including N95 mask, gowns and gloves. The state is testing about 1,000 people per day now, Lamont said, so he expects the numbers to go up.

Lamont said about 500 retired nurses stood-up to come back to work, they are also working on getting nursing students certified to come and help at hospital.

A very "generous donor" donated millions of dollars to open 26-day care centers near or adjacent to hospitals to help ease the demand on healthcare staff, he said. 

The governor also rolled out the stay home to stay safe policy to help combat the spread of Covid-19. This will require all people over 70 to stay home and to stay off public transportation.

Retail stores are not to open unless they are an essential service for at least the foreseeable future, Lamont added.

The governor said major construction projects and major manufactures are exempted from this, however he asked for all of them to be tested before and after work and no major gatherings when they are off.

4:24 p.m. ET, March 20, 2020

Illinois governor issues "stay-at-home" order for entire state

From CNN's Raja Razek


Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker has issued a "stay-at-home" order Friday for the entire state to prevent the spread of coronavirus. 

Pritzker said the order goes into effect at 5 p.m. CT on Saturday and lasts through April 7. 

Here's what it means:

  • Residents will still be able to go to grocery stores, pharmacies, medical offices, hospitals and gas stations.
  • They can still go running or hiking and walk their dogs.

"Many, many people will still be able to go to work," Pritzker said

4:26 p.m. ET, March 20, 2020

FDA won’t take action against companies who produce hand sanitizer

From CNN's Amanda Watts


With the current high demand for hand sanitizer, the US Food and Drug Administration said it will not take action against companies who are not FDA regulated and who produce hand sanitizers.   

FDA Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn said, the recent guidance will “provide flexibility to help meet demand during this outbreak. We will continue to work with manufacturers, compounders, state boards of pharmacy and the public to increase the supply of alcohol-based hand sanitizer available to Americans.”

According to the policy, “certain entities that are not currently regulated by FDA as drug manufacturers have requested guidance on the preparation and distribution of hand sanitizer products for the public’s use,” provided they follow several guidelines laid out by the FDA.  

FDA is encouraging consumers to report any adverse experiences with the use of hand sanitizers to FDA here.

4:17 p.m. ET, March 20, 2020

Zimbabwe reports first case of coronavirus

From Columbus Mavhunga in Harare

A 38-year-old man has become the first person to test positive for coronavirus in Zimbabwe, the country's ministry of health reported Friday. 

"The patient is a 38-year-old Caucasian male resident of Victoria Falls, who had traveled to Manchester, United Kingdom on the 7th of March 2020 and returned to his home in Victoria Falls on the 15th of March 2020 via South Africa," the health ministry said.

When he returned from his travels, he put himself in self-quarantine and then developed a persistent cough and sneeze, so he contacted authorities for a test.

He remains in self-isolation and is showing signs of recovery, according to the health ministry.

4:18 p.m. ET, March 20, 2020

Stocks close down, marking the worst week since 2008

From CNN’s Anneken Tappe

Nicole Pereira/NYSE via AP
Nicole Pereira/NYSE via AP

At the close of trading Friday, all three major US stock indexes experienced their worst weekly performance since October 2008.

US stocks ended Friday's session lower, although the losses were more contained than they have been in previous weeks.

The Dow closed 913 points, or 4.6%, lower, dropping 17.3% this week. The index has now erased all of the gains accumulated during the Trump administration.

The S&P 500 finished down 4.4%. It fell 15% on the week.

The Nasdaq Composite slipped 3.8%, for a 12.6% loss this week.

4:09 p.m. ET, March 20, 2020

Liquor stores will remain open under New York mandate, association says

A sign listing the rules for entering the store is displayed in front of House of Wine & Liquor as the coronavirus continues to spread across the United States on March 16, 2020 in New York City.
A sign listing the rules for entering the store is displayed in front of House of Wine & Liquor as the coronavirus continues to spread across the United States on March 16, 2020 in New York City. Cindy Ord/Getty Images

The New York State Liquor Store Association reminded business owners and patrons on Friday that all liquor shops are considered essential and will remain open under the new mandate.

"Liquor stores have been deemed an essential business and may remain open. You do not need to reduce your workforce. This applies to all SLA-licensed entities as per the SLA," the association said in a statement.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Friday that all workers in non-essential businesses across the state are required to stay home in an effort to combat the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

Businesses like liquor and grocery stores are excluded from the order.

According to the state's website, "grocery stores including all food and beverage stores" are considered essential retail.

The association also posted the news on Facebook, reminding its patrons that "Liquor stores have been deemed an essential business during the outbreak of Covid-19 — we are permitted to stay open to serve you!"

"Please consider utilizing pick up or delivery options when purchasing from your favorite local retailer. Stay safe and healthy!" the association added.

3:49 p.m. ET, March 20, 2020

An inmate described how prisons are a petri dish for coronavirus. A judge won't let him out.

From CNN's Katelyn Polantz

A set of court filings this week has provided a picture of what it's like for inmates inside a federal prison in New Jersey as the fear of the spread of coronavirus grows.

The inmate's experiences this week describe how prisons could be a petri dish for the virus.

James Davis, a 69-year-old serving a 10-year prison term for white collar fraud in Pennsylvania, asked on Tuesday to be released from prison because of the potential threat to his health. 

Davis highlighted for the appeals court how much he's in contact with more than 100 other inmates inside the federal prison in Fort Dix, New Jersey, and how the prison has lacked providing cleaning products and soap.

The court denied Davis' release on Friday, noting he could ask again if he tests positive for novel coronavirus.

Davis' lawyer told the court that conditions in the federal prison, his age and history of asthma, heart problems, high blood pressure and other issues put him at "severe risk of death from the coronavirus pandemic."

In a court filing on Tuesday, Davis' team described the situation within the low-security prison which included inmates sitting together for meals and sharing a bathroom and common spaces. The filing also claimed inmates aren't given soap or cleaning products.

"At two large town-hall-style gatherings with all 100+ inmates in the hall together, inmates were informed that the prison plans to make handsoap available in the restrooms in the future and, in the meantime, inmates were encouraged to use whatever soap they had available individually to wash their hands and wipe surfaces," Davis' lawyers wrote. "During the town hall gathering, prison officials admitted that it was not an ideal situation because they were unable to comply with (since superseded) CDC guidance for avoiding groups of 50."

Prosecutors countered that Davis shouldn't be released because he's not in any unique circumstance compared to others. They also explained to the court that "the Bureau of Prisons is taking aggressive steps to mitigate risk from Covid-19."

What we know: The Bureau of Prisons is screening new inmates for symptoms and may screen staff. Prisons have also barred visitors and limited the movements of inmates, prosecutors wrote. 

The Bureau of Prisons says it has no confirmed cases of the virus among inmates or staff, though a staff member in Texas is being tested and one in New Hampshire has a presumptive diagnosis based on flu-like symptoms.

Davis has been in prison since May 2019.

3:39 p.m. ET, March 20, 2020

US Army closing recruiting stations, shifting to virtual recruiting

From CNN's Ryan Browne

The US Army is closing its recruiting stations across the country and shifting to virtual recruiting amid the coronavirus pandemic. 

“We are going to basically virtual recruiting much of that is done on social media and that allows us to protect our soldiers and also protect the new recruits,” the Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. James McConville said Friday.

McConville said the Army is in the process of closing sites.

3:33 p.m. ET, March 20, 2020

The Florida Keys will close to visitors starting Sunday night

People watch the sunset in the Florida keys from Sunset Park on November 24 2019, in Marathon Island, Florida.
People watch the sunset in the Florida keys from Sunset Park on November 24 2019, in Marathon Island, Florida. Ludovic Marin/AFPGetty Images

The Florida Keys will be temporarily closed to visitors starting at 6 p.m. ET Sunday, a press release from officials said.

Hotels and other lodging properties on the Keys have been ordered to closed, the release said.

The first case on the island chain was announced Thursday and spurred the decision to close to visitors, the release said.

“We understand that this is a tremendous inconvenience to our visitors as well as to our businesses, and more than an inconvenience to our workers — our families who live here,” said Monroe County Mayor Heather Carruthers in the release. “But the health and safety of both our visitors and our residents is paramount.”