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

Trump says he kicked use of Defense Production Act "into gear"

From CNN's Kevin Liptak

Alex Wong/Getty Images
Alex Wong/Getty Images

President Trump said he kicked his usage of the Defense Production Act "into gear" on Thursday evening after saying he would only invoke the measure in a worst case scenario.

Trump told reporters he'd moved the National Response Coordination Center — an office within the Federal Emergency Management Agency — into the "highest level of activation."

"We are helping the states a lot," Trump said during the daily coronavirus briefing.

More on this: There remains some confusion around Trump's use of the Defense Production Act, which he signed on Wednesday but later said he wasn't yet invoking despite shortages of medical gear and equipment.

On Thursday, Trump said it was the responsibility of individual governors to ensure their states have sufficient levels of supplies.

The DPA allows the federal government to direct industries to produce necessary equipment, but it remains unclear whether Trump has provided that direction yet.

12:14 p.m. ET, March 20, 2020

Trump applauds "strong, bold steps" in New York and California

From CNN's Betsy Klein

Evan Vucci/AP
Evan Vucci/AP

President Trump expressed support for measures taken by Gov. Gavin Newsom and Andrew Cuomo in California and New York, respectively, to address the coronavirus pandemic. 

Trump said he’s been watching what's happened in California, where Newsom issued a state-wide lock down.

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

“I applaud them. They’re taking very strong, bold steps and I applaud them,” Trump said about the governors.
12:17 p.m. ET, March 20, 2020

Secretary of State confirms restricted travel order to Canada and Mexico


Secretary of State Mike Pompeo confirmed reports that the US has worked with Mexico to "restrict non-essential travels across our shared border," he said today during the Coronavirus Task Force White House briefing.

Pompeo discussed the restriction of travel to Canada as well.

"President Trump announced on Wednesday, the United States and Canada jointly agreed to restrict non essential traffic across ourborders, it goes into effect at midnight and excluding crossing the border unless for work or other essential reasons. The United States and Mexico have agreed to restrict non-essential travels across our shared border. Both our countries know the importance of working together to limit the spread of the virus," Pompeo said.

Following Pence's remarks, Chad Wolf, acting Homeland Security secretary, said neither agreement with Canada or Mexico applies to lawful trade or commerce.

"We'll continue to maintain a strong supply chain across our border," Wolf said.

The agreement between Mexico and Canada will go affect March 21.

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

Trump said he had an "extremely good" call with the top Senate Democrat today

From CNN's Betsy Klein and Manu Raju

Evan Vucci/AP
Evan Vucci/AP

President Trump confirmed he spoke with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer on Friday. Trump had an “extremely good” call with Schumer “a little while ago,” he said at the Coronavirus Task Force White House briefing. 

A Schumer spokesperson passed along a readout of the call earlier today, saying that Schumer urged Trump to invoke the Defense Production Act. 

Trump did not confirm the Schumer readout of the call, which said he agreed to immediately invoke the Act.

“We are working on various elements of the deal. The Democrats are very much wanting something to happen and I think it will,” Trump said of a stimulus bill.

Trump said he also spoke “at length” with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and there is a “tremendous spirit to get something done.”

11:59 a.m. ET, March 20, 2020

Trump is temporarily waiving all interest on federal student loans


President Trump said at press conference today that the federal government has "temporarily waived all interest on federally held student loans" for 60 days due to the coronavirus outbreak.

He added: "If we need more, we'll extend that period of time."


11:47 a.m. ET, March 20, 2020

There are at least 15,500 coronavirus cases in US

From CNN's Amanda Watts

According to CNN Health’s tally of US cases that are detected and tested in the United States through public health systems, there are 15,599 cases of the novel coronavirus in the United States. 

As of Friday morning, 197 people have died.

The total includes cases from all 50 states, the District of Columbia and other US territories, as well as all repatriated cases. 

11:46 a.m. ET, March 20, 2020

New York governor says mandate to stay home is "not a shelter in place order"

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said his order for all non-essential workers to stay home is "not a shelter in place order."

Cuomo said "words matter" and pushed back on the suggestion that the new mandate is a shelter-in-place order.

He said he's increasing the mandates "because the numbers are increasing" of positive cases.

On the question of who counts as an essential worker, he noted that mass transit workers and restaurant staff doing delivery and take-out service can still go to work.

11:46 a.m. ET, March 20, 2020

Gov. Cuomo institutes a 90 days moratorium on evictions across New York

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has called for a moratorium on evictions for 90 days because "I want to protect the people of the state of New York," he said Friday during a press conference.

This order applies to both residential and commercial properties, Cuomo added.

"I understand that may affect businesses negatively. And I've spoke to a number of them. I don't know who you think you're going to rent an apartment to now anyway if you kick someone out. By my mandate, you couldn't even have a real estate agent out showing the apartment. Same with the commercial tenants. But I know that we're going to put people out of work with what I did. I want to make sure I don't put them out of their house," Cuomo said.

11:46 a.m. ET, March 20, 2020

New York now has more than 7,000 cases of coronavirus, governor says

State of New York
State of New York

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said today that the state now has 7,102 positive cases of coronavirus. New York has tested more than 32,000 people, Cuomo said.

Cuomo noted that since the state is now doing more tests you're "going to get more positive cases."

He said the state has "the testing so high that we're testing per capita more than China or South Korea."

New York has done a "great job ramping up" testing, Cuomo said. He pointed out that 10,000 people were tested last night.

"In total we have tested 32,000 people. We did 10,000 tests last night. I had said last week we hope to get to 6,000 tests. We have gotten to 10,000 tests. Which again, I'm very proud of the operation. But again, that's why you see the number going up," Cuomo added.