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March 20 coronavirus news
By Helen Regan, Joshua Berlinger, Julia Hollingsworth, Adam Renton, Steve George and Fernando Alfonso III, CNN
General Motors will help produce ventilators for coronavirus
From CNN's Vanessa Yurkevich
General Motors in partnership with Ventec Life Systems are collaborating to produce respiratory care products, including ventilators, to fight Covid-19.
Ventec will use GM’s logistics, purchasing and manufacturing expertise to build more of their "critically important ventilators" to help save lives.
“We are working closely with Ventec to rapidly scale up production of their critically important respiratory products to support our country’s fight again the Covid-19 pandemic,” said Mary Barra, GM chairman and CEO. “We will continue to explore ways to help in this time of crisis."
DC's Metro system discouraging riders from visiting cherry blossoms this weekend
From CNN's Joe Ruiz
An annual tradition for both Washingtonians and tourists are to see the cherry blossoms bloom every Spring.
But the threat of spreading coronavirus has prompted the city's public transit system to take additional steps to its already altered scheduled to discourage people from using the public transportation system to go see them during peak bloom.
Trains will be running on a 30-minute operating schedule, and buses will operate on a Sunday schedule, system officials announced in a Friday statement.
The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority also reminded riders two of its stations — Smithsonian and Arlington Cemetery — close to the Tidal Basin where much of the cherry blossoms bloom will remain closed.
Of course, people continue to show up and look at the bloom, including somebody who broke one of the fragile trees, according to the National Park Service.
Organizers of the National Cherry Blossom Festival had already announced last week it would be canceling its annual event due to the coronavirus outbreak.
For people who are stuck in the nation's capital or otherwise can't get to DC, the National Mall has a webcam to view the cherry blossoms around the Tidal Basin.
FDA cracks down on fake coronavirus tests, preventions and treatments
From CNN’s Jen Christensen
The US Food and Drug Administration said Friday that it is closely watching the market and will take appropriate action against firms claiming to offer fraudulent coronavirus tests, preventions and treatments.
The FDA said it is starting to see unauthorized home tests being marketed by some companies. The FDA has not authorized any home test, although the agency said it is working with test developers to create one.
The FDA said it has already sent warning letters to companies that were selling and promoting coronavirus related items that were fakes. The agency said it is also stepping up enforcement at ports of entry, including at international mail facilities. In a separate investigation, US Customs and Border Protection services seized fake test kits at the Los Angeles International Airport on Saturday.
“Fraudulent health claims, tests, and products can pose serious health risks,” the FDA statement said. “They may keep some patients from seeking care or delay necessary medical treatment.”
There are more than 18,000 cases of coronavirus in the US
From CNN's Allison Flexner
There are 18,170 confirmed coronavirus cases in the United States, and 241 people have died of the virus, according to CNN Health’s tally of US cases that are detected and tested in the United States through US public health systems.
The total includes cases from all 50 states, the District of Columbia and other US territories, as well as all repatriated cases.
Cuba will close its borders to combat the spread of coronavirus
From CNN's Patrick Oppmann in Havana and Tatiana Arias in Atlanta
Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel announced on Friday that the country will be closing its borders to everyone attempting to enter the island, with the exception of residents of the communist-run island.
The measure will go into effect on Tuesday and will last 30 days, the President said during a live televised address to the nation.
Commerce would still continue with other countries. However, tourism will no longer be permitted for at least 30 days, and all foreign visitors who are not residents need to depart the island, Diaz-Canel said.
Cuban health authorities have reported 21 cases of coronavirus and one death.
Yosemite National Park closed until further notice
From CNN's Cheri Mossburg
Yosemite National Park in California is now closed until further notice.
Visitors are not permitted inside the park, and the closure will be enforced around the clock, according to the National Park Service.
Most national parks have announced facility closures, but this is the first full closure of a park.
The NPS attributes the closure to a request from the local health department.
Known for its towering granite cliffs, Yosemite is one of the country’s most treasured national parks. Established in 1890, it was the country’s third national park.
More men than women in Italy are dying from coronavirus, says White House's response coordinator
From CNN's Shelby Lin Erdman
New numbers from the Covid-19 outbreak in Italy show more men are dying from the virus than women, the White House's coronavirus response coordinator told CNN.
“This new data about the male-female ratio is really quite striking,” Dr. Deborah Birx told CNN's Wolf Blitzer on Friday evening.
“From age 50 on, almost twice as many men are dying as women. So that really makes us really have to look into that and understand that, and really, just having the knowledge of that helps us in the United States so we can be very specific in talking to the American people about who to protect and how to protect them,” she said.
Birx stressed the importance of underlying and pre-existing medical conditions when it comes to coronavirus infections.
“In Italy, again, most of the individuals who succumb to this disease had three other prior existing medical conditions,” she said.
Epidemiologists deploying to investigate multiple coronavirus cases in SW Georgia county
From CNN's Jessica Jordan
Epidemiologists from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Georgia Department of Public Health are being deployed to Albany in southwest Georgia to investigate multiple cases in the area, the health department said in a statement.
Dougherty County, where Albany is located, has 38 cases of coronavirus with six confirmed deaths, the statement said.
The team of experts will focus on investigations at Phoebe Putney Hospital and long-term care facilities in the area, according to the statement.
Albany is about 90 miles north of Tallahassee, Florida.