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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9:10 a.m. ET, March 20, 2020

US-led training effort in Iraq has been suspended due to coronavirus

From CNN's Barbara Starr

The US-led training effort aimed at combating ISIS has been suspended due to COVID-19, according to a defense official. 

“To prevent potential spread of COVID-19, Iraqi Security Forces and coalition forces have stopped all training. That has led to the repositioning of some training forces for force protection and operational continuity; some trainers will depart Iraq in the coming days and weeks,” a US defense official told CNN.

The official added that the US-led coalition “remains committed to the lasting defeat of ISIS and if the situation allows training will resume“

The coronavirus pandemic is impacting the US military in places like Iraq and Afghanistan as measures to prevent its spread have caused the US to limit its activities including operations to help counter ISIS.

9:08 a.m. ET, March 20, 2020

Supreme Court justices to meet privately Friday

From CNN's Ariane de Vogue

The U.S. Supreme Court is pictured on March 16, in Washington, D.C. The Supreme Court announced on Monday that it would postpone oral arguments for its March session because of the coronavirus outbreak.
The U.S. Supreme Court is pictured on March 16, in Washington, D.C. The Supreme Court announced on Monday that it would postpone oral arguments for its March session because of the coronavirus outbreak. Drew Angerer/Getty Images

As the nation and the world self-quarantine in the midst of a pandemic, the Supreme Court justices will meet privately on Friday, either in person or telephonically, to discuss pending cases and presumably how they will handle the rest of a blockbuster term. 

The meeting is one of the regularly scheduled conferences the justices hold throughout the term, but it comes as the court has closed its doors to the public and taken other precautions as the country grapples with the coronavirus.  

Earlier in the week, the court said that "some justices" may choose to "participate remotely by telephone." That's because six of the justices are 65 and older. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer are in their 80s — well within the government's standard for individuals at a higher risk.

In the same press release, the court said that in order to abide by "public health precautions," the court would postpone oral arguments for the next sitting, which was scheduled to begin March 23. The most important case from that sitting is President Trump's bid to shield his financial documents. 

Some historical context: The move to postpone is exceedingly rare, but there is precedent. In 1918, arguments were postponed in response to the Spanish flu epidemic. The calendar was shortened in 1793 and 1798 in response to yellow fever outbreaks.

9:11 a.m. ET, March 20, 2020

Barbershops, nails salons, tattoo and piercing shops to close in New York and neighboring states

Bill Tompkins/Getty Images
Bill Tompkins/Getty Images

Barbershops, hair salons, tattoo or piercing parlors, nail salons, hair removal services, and “related personal care services” will be closed to the public beginning Saturday 8 p.m. ET, New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, along with the governors of New Jersey, Connecticut and Pennsylvania, said in a statement regarding their four states.

These businesses must be closed because "these services cannot be provided while maintaining social distance,” the governors said in the statement.

As of 8 p.m. ET Thursday, indoor portions of retail shopping malls, amusement parks and bowling alleys in the four states were all shuttered across the four states, the statement said.

"We know how the novel coronavirus spreads, and we are making data-driven decisions as the situation evolves to continue to reduce density and slow the spread of the virus,"  Cuomo said. "We remain in constant communication with our neighboring states to ensure we are establishing a set of uniform rules and regulations for the entire region. These temporary closures are not going to be easy, but they are necessary to protecting the health and safety of New Yorkers and all Americans."
8:53 a.m. ET, March 20, 2020

Air Canada is temporarily laying off flight attendants

From CNN's Carma Hassan

Air Canada signage is displayed at Toronto Pearson International Airport on March 16.
Air Canada signage is displayed at Toronto Pearson International Airport on March 16. Cole Burston/Bloomberg/Getty Images

Air Canada says the company is working with its unions to place employees on a temporary, off-duty status.

The employees would be reinstated when the airline can ramp up its schedule again, Air Canada said in a statement. It’s not clear how many employees will be impacted.

CNN Business has reached out to the Canadian Union of Public Employees for comment.

8:51 a.m. ET, March 20, 2020

FDA "not aware of scientific evidence" linking ibuprofen to worsening of coronavirus symptoms

From CNN Heath's Jacqueline Howard

Shutterstock
Shutterstock

The US Food and Drug Administration said it is "not aware of scientific evidence" connecting the use of popular anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen, to a worsening of COVID-19 symptoms. 

The FDA made this announcement following the publication of a letter last week in the journal Lancet Respiratory Medicine that hypothesized such non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs could increase a certain enzyme in the body, which could aggravate COVID-19 symptoms.

"The agency is investigating this issue further and will communicate publicly when more information is available. However, all prescription NSAID labels warn that ‘the pharmacological activity of NSAIDs in reducing inflammation, and possibly fever, may diminish the utility of diagnostic signs in detecting infections,’" the FDA said.
8:45 a.m. ET, March 20, 2020

Staying at home and social distancing will continue for "at least several weeks," Fauci says

From CNN's Carma Hassan

Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, speaks during a press briefing with the coronavirus task force at the White House, on March 17.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, speaks during a press briefing with the coronavirus task force at the White House, on March 17. Evan Vucci/AP

The top infectious disease expert in the US, Dr. Anthony Fauci, told NBC's "The Today Show" he thinks Americans will have to stay home and continue to social distance for several more weeks.

“If you look at the trajectory of the curves of outbreaks in other areas, it’s at least going to be several weeks,” Fauci said on Friday. “I cannot see that all of a sudden, next week or two weeks from, it’s going to be over. I don’t think there’s a chance of that, I think it’s going to be several weeks.”

Fauci also discussed the spread of the novel coronavirus with host Savannah Guthrie.

He said the best thing the US can do right now is to delay any elective surgeries to keep hospital beds and equipment available.

Guthrie asked if President Trump should invoke the Defense Production Act, and Fauci said the president “is very serious about doing everything we could possibly do.”

They will meet today, Fauci said, and he is sure that would come up in their discussions.

Guthrie asked if doctors going to the craft store to make their own medical equipment is considered the worst-case scenario.

“Obviously we are in a very difficult situation and we should be doing everything we can to mitigate that,” Fauci responded.

Regarding the anti-malaria drug Trump said could treat COVID-19, Fauci said they have heard anecdotally that the drugs work, but they have not been tested in controlled trials.

“So what we’re saying is that we want to make them more available, but in the context of a protocol of some sort, that would not only make them available but that we can get some information as to whether they’re safe and whether they really work,” Fauci said.

8:43 a.m. ET, March 20, 2020

German global travel warning in place until end of April

From Nadine Schmidt in Berlin

Travelers walk through Munich International Airport on March 17, in Freising, Germany.
Travelers walk through Munich International Airport on March 17, in Freising, Germany. Andreas Gebert/Getty Images

Germany's worldwide travel warning, which was announced last week due to the coronavirus pandemic, will apply until the end of April, the country's Foreign Minister Heiko Maas announced Friday.

“Our warning against tourist travel abroad is valid until the end of April for the time being. It therefore includes the Easter holidays,” Maas wrote on Twitter.

8:38 a.m. ET, March 20, 2020

New York City expected to run out of medical supplies in 2 to 3 weeks

From CNN’s Athena Jones

Will Swanson, a Registered Nurse from Columbia University, picks up personal protective equipment (PPE) and other medical supplies at a New York State emergency operations incident command center in New Rochelle, New York, on March 17.
Will Swanson, a Registered Nurse from Columbia University, picks up personal protective equipment (PPE) and other medical supplies at a New York State emergency operations incident command center in New Rochelle, New York, on March 17. Mike Segar/Reuters

New York City needs 45 million surgical gowns, coveralls, gloves and face masks – known as personal protective equipment (PPE) – in April to ensure its healthcare system can deal with coronavirus-related issues, Avery Cohen, a spokesperson for Mayor Bill de Blasio, told CNN Friday morning.

This up from 25 million, as announced by de Blasio in a press conference late Thursday afternoon.

“We increased our ask,” Cohen said. “Things are constantly shifting and changing!”

8:37 a.m. ET, March 20, 2020

UK asks 65,000 retired nurses and doctors to come back to work

From CNN’s Sharon Braithwaite in London

An NHS sign points towards a coronavirus testing pod at Kings College Hospital in Camberwell, south London, on March 11.
An NHS sign points towards a coronavirus testing pod at Kings College Hospital in Camberwell, south London, on March 11. Richard Baker/In Pictures via Getty Images

The United Kingdom's National Health Service (NHS) has asked 65,000 nurses and doctors who retired in the last three years to return and help tackle the “greatest global health threat” in a century.

Medical personnel with up-to-date skills and experience, including retirees, will be surveyed on what type of role they could do. Those who join the “NHS army” will be given a full induction and online training to help them to hit the ground running, said the NHS in a statement released Thursday.

“As the health service gears up to deal with the greatest global health threat in its history, my message to former colleagues is ‘Your NHS Needs You,’” said Ruth May, chief nursing officer for England.

Final-year medical students and student nurses are also being offered the chance to take temporary roles on full pay to boost frontline capacity even further, the agency said.

Similar measures are being implemented in other European countries as thousands of medical students are being fast-tracked into early service in an attempt to boost health systems across the continent that are struggling to cope with the coronavirus outbreak.

Read our full story on medical students being fast-tracked here.