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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4:09 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.”
3:43 p.m. ET, March 20, 2020

US now has at least 16,300 coronavirus cases

From CNN's Amanda Watts

People who believe they have COVID-19 and who meet the criteria wait in line to be pre-screened for the corona virus outside of the Brooklyn Hospital Center on Fridayd, March 20, in the Brooklyn borough of New York.
People who believe they have COVID-19 and who meet the criteria wait in line to be pre-screened for the corona virus outside of the Brooklyn Hospital Center on Fridayd, March 20, in the Brooklyn borough of New York. Angela Weiss/AFP/Getty Images

There are 16,366 cases of novel coronavirus in the United States, according to CNN Health’s tally of US cases that are detected and tested in the country through public health systems.

So far, 215 people have died.

The total includes cases from all 50 states, Washington, DC, and other US territories, as well as all repatriated cases. 

Watch:

3:22 p.m. ET, March 20, 2020

United Airlines executives warn employees of massive job cuts if Congress doesn't act

From CNN’s Cristina Alesci

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images/FILE
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images/FILE

In a memo to employees, United Airlines executives and several labor leaders said the company will be forced to reduce payroll, “if Congress doesn’t act on sufficient government support by the end of March.” 

United CEO Oscar Munoz and United President Scott Kirby, along with labor leaders, warned that it will have to take the necessary steps to reduce payroll in line with the 60 percent schedule reduction, which goes into effect in April.

Earlier this week: United announced a 50 percent schedule reduction but the new travel restrictions the government announced Thursday might lead to additional schedule reductions, according to a United spokesperson.

3:12 p.m. ET, March 20, 2020

White House confirms pull back in non-coronavirus-related events

From CNN's Betsy Klein

Getty Images/FILE
Getty Images/FILE

When asked if it was fair to say the White House has postponed all non-coronavirus-related events and travel, deputy press secretary Judd Deere told CNN that there has been a scaling back in activities as they continue to follow the President's coronavirus guidelines.

“The White House is following the guidelines the President announced this week, which includes staying home if you feel sick, engaging in work at home when possible, avoiding social gatherings of 10 or more, using drive-thru, pick-up, or delivery options and much more," Deere said in a statement.

Deere added: "The complex has also implemented temperature checks at all entrances and for those in close contact with the President and Vice President, paused the internship and volunteer program, canceled all east and west wing tours and more to keep the campus safe and healthy.”

But a White House official stressed to CNN that the situation is fluid and that they are constantly evaluating the situation.

"This is a constantly changing, evolving situation," the official said.

For now, large scale social events — things that require logistical support and travel arrangements — are on hold.

There are still events on the calendar in the month of April, for instance, but the schedule is being evaluated "day by day," the official said.

Earlier Friday, the White House announced that the Presidential Medal of Freedom event scheduled for Monday for Annika Sorenstam and Gary Player had been postponed.

2:56 p.m. ET, March 20, 2020

Canada will turn back asylum seekers from the US border

From CNN’s Paula Newton

General view of the empty Detroit–Windsor Tunnel custom lanes that connects Detroit and Windsor, Canada on March 18, 2020 in Detroit, Michigan.
General view of the empty Detroit–Windsor Tunnel custom lanes that connects Detroit and Windsor, Canada on March 18, 2020 in Detroit, Michigan. Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Canada will return so called "irregular migrants" to the United States saying it is doing so to keep migrants and Canadians safe as its planning for the pandemic strains resources of border and health officials.

"We will now be returning irregular migrants who attempt to cross anywhere at the Canada-US border," Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said while speaking to reporters outside of his Ottawa residence where he is in quarantine.

Trudeau called these "exceptional measures" as they try to deal with an influx of migrants who must be processed and quarantined when they enter the country from the United States. Trudeau said most of the asylum seekers are in the US legally.

Asylum seekers are already returned to the US when they attempt to claim asylum at official border crossings in Canada under the Safe Third Country Agreement. For more than three years, migrants have been using a loophole to that law which means it does not apply at unofficial border crossings. 

Canada also said the border with the US would close to all non-essential travel as of midnight Friday. 

“This decision will be implemented on March 21, 2020, at which time the U.S. and Canada will temporarily restrict all non-essential travel across the US-Canada land border. The measure will be in place for 30 days, at which point it will be reviewed by both parties,” said the statement released by the Canadian government.

Canada took steps to place the country on more of a wartime footing announcing its new industrial policy would refocus to fight Covid-19. 

"Our objective is to increase domestic supply so that we have Canadian solutions ready to protect Canadians," Industry Minister Navdeep Bains said.

Canada also announced its goal was to be "over-prepared" and announced that it had secured 11.5 million N95 masks and will continue to procure health protective equipment.

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

US has fewer hospital beds than Italy per capita

From CNN's Michael Nedelman

Workers construct a temporary hospital on a soccer field for people infected with COVID-19 on Thursday, March 19,  in Shoreline, Washington. The 200 bed facility will increase hospital capacity in the Seattle area and serve as a place where people infected can isolate and recover.
Workers construct a temporary hospital on a soccer field for people infected with COVID-19 on Thursday, March 19, in Shoreline, Washington. The 200 bed facility will increase hospital capacity in the Seattle area and serve as a place where people infected can isolate and recover. Karen Ducey/Getty Images

The novel coronavirus outbreak in Italy — whose health care system has more hospital beds per 1,000 people than the United States — could signal a lack of preparedness on the US front, according to commentary published this week in the New England Journal of Medicine.

"Though Italy’s health system is highly regarded and has 3.2 hospital beds per 1,000 people (as compared with 2.8 in the United States), it has been impossible to meet the needs of so many critically ill patients simultaneously," Dr. Lisa Rosenbaum, a cardiologist at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, wrote in the perspective piece published Wednesday.

Despite hospitals in Italy canceling elective surgeries and turning operating rooms into temporary intensive care units, the country has seen limited capacity in treating an influx of COVID-19 patients, Rosenbaum said. And doctors have had to ration care.

Experts, including US Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams, have widely cautioned that the US could "become Italy" as the outbreak worsens stateside.