March 21 coronavirus news

By Joshua Berlinger, Brett McKeehan, Jack Guy, Fernando Alfonso III and Amir Vera, CNN

Updated 0215 GMT (1015 HKT) March 22, 2020
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1:30 a.m. ET, March 21, 2020

Huge crowds flocked to Sydney's iconic Bondi Beach despite the coronavirus scare. So now it's officially closing

Beachgoers swarm Bondi in Sydney, Australia, on Friday.
Beachgoers swarm Bondi in Sydney, Australia, on Friday. John Fotiadis/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Authorities in Sydney are closing Bondi Beach after crowds gathered at the iconic waterfront site to take in the sun and swim, effectively ignoring warnings about the importance of social distancing to help prevent the novel coronavirus from spreading.

Images of massive crowds went viral Friday, prompting outrage from concerned citizens and members of government. CNN affiliate 7 News Sydney said that "thousands" of people had gathered there Friday.

It appears more were planning to do so today, according to David Elliott, the Minister for Police and Emergency Services in New South Wales state.

"What we saw this morning here at Bondi Beach was the most irresponsible behavior of individuals that we've seen so far. We cannot have an active area of community activity where more than 500 people are gathered," Elliott said at a news conference in Sydney today.

"It's with a significant level of disappointment that we have to move today to not only remove people from Bondi Beach but use this as an opportunity to remind people that the Health Act must be complied with."

1:06 a.m. ET, March 21, 2020

Singapore confirms its first coronavirus deaths

From CNN's Chermaine Lee in Hong Kong

Vehicles form a long queue to enter Woodlands checkpoint in Singapore on March 17.
Vehicles form a long queue to enter Woodlands checkpoint in Singapore on March 17. Catherine Lai/AFP/Getty Images

Two people have died in Singapore after contracting the novel coronavirus -- the first fatalities in the city-state related to the global pandemic since the virus first emerged there weeks ago.

The victims were a 75-year-old woman and a 64-year-old man, according to the Singapore Ministry of Health. They both died in a local hospital.

The woman, a Singapore citizen, contracted the virus on February 23. She had chronic heart disease and a history of hypertension.

The man, an Indonesian national, also had a history of heart disease. He was infected on March 14.

Gatherings canceled: Gatherings of 250 or more people have been banned in Singapore until the end of June to stop the virus from spreading, the Health Ministry announced Friday.

For events with less than 250 participants, organizers are required to keep people at least 1 meter (3.3 feet) apart, according to the report.  

Restaurants and entertainment venues can remain open, but a distance of at least 1 meter must be maintained between tables and between seats.

The government also urged employers to introduce measures to reduce close physical interactions between employees and facilitate telecommuting when possible.

It also placed a heavy emphasis on personal responsibility, saying:

Social responsibility is a critical factor in slowing the transmission of the virus. We need all Singaporeans to play their part in the fight against COVID-19. Singaporeans should therefore uphold these safe distancing principles for their own private get-togethers, even if these are being carried out in smaller groups. This means reducing the frequency of such activities, and minimizing physical contact with one another. Those who are unwell, even with mild flu-like symptoms, should see a doctor and stay at home to prevent spreading illness to others. We must all do our part to protect ourselves, our family and friends, and the people around us.  
12:40 a.m. ET, March 21, 2020

More than 250 people have died of the coronavirus in the US

From CNN's Alta Spells

A Long Island Rail Road employee disinfects a train car at the Hicksville, New York, LIRR station on March 19.
A Long Island Rail Road employee disinfects a train car at the Hicksville, New York, LIRR station on March 19. Steve Pfost/Newsday RM via Getty Images

At least 18,763 people have been infected with the novel coronavirus in the United States, according to CNN Health’s tally of cases detected and tested through US public health systems. At least 258 people have died.

Here's a breakdown of cases per state and territory:

  • Alabama: 106 cases
  • Alaska: 14 cases
  • Arizona: 63 cases, 1 death
  • Arkansas: 100 cases
  • California: 1,077 cases, 24 deaths
  • Colorado: 363 cases, 4 deaths
  • Connecticut: 194 cases, 4 deaths
  • Delaware: 39 cases
  • District of Columbia: 77 cases, 1 death
  • Florida: 514 cases, 9 deaths
  • Georgia: 420 cases, 13 deaths
  • Guam: 12 cases
  • Hawaii: 37 cases
  • Idaho: 23 cases
  • Illinois: 585 cases, 5 deaths 
  • Indiana: 79 cases, 3 deaths
  • Iowa: 45 cases
  • Kansas: 44 cases, 1 death
  • Kentucky: 63 cases, 2 deaths
  • Louisiana: 537 cases, 14 deaths
  • Maine: 56 cases
  • Maryland: 149 cases, 2 deaths
  • Massachusetts: 413 case, 1 death
  • Michigan: 549 cases, 3 deaths
  • Minnesota: 115 cases
  • Mississippi: 80 cases, 1 death
  • Missouri: 47 cases, 2 deaths
  • Montana: 15 cases
  • Nebraska: 32 cases
  • Nevada: 109 cases, 2 deaths
  • New Hampshire: 55 cases
  • New Jersey: 890 cases, 11 deaths
  • New Mexico: 43 cases
  • New York: 8,377 cases, 53 deaths
  • North Carolina: 137 cases
  • North Dakota: 26 cases
  • Ohio: 169 cases, 1 death
  • Oklahoma: 49 cases, 1 death
  • Oregon: 88 cases, 3 deaths
  • Pennsylvania: 268 cases, 1 death
  • Puerto Rico: 8 cases
  • Rhode Island: 54 cases
  • South Carolina: 125 cases, 1 death
  • South Dakota: 14 cases, 1 death
  • Tennessee: 228 cases
  • Texas: 202 cases, 5 deaths
  • US Virgin Islands: 3 cases
  • Utah: 112 cases
  • Vermont: 29 cases, 2 deaths
  • Virginia: 114 case, 2 deaths
  • Washington: 1,513 cases, 82 deaths
  • West Virginia: 8 cases
  • Wisconsin: 206 cases, 3 deaths
  • Wyoming: 18 cases

12:19 a.m. ET, March 21, 2020

Coronavirus testing should be limited to priority groups, lab group says

From CNN Health’s Gina Yu


Due to the widespread shortages of laboratory supplies and reagents, only three specific groups should be prioritized for novel coronavirus testing, according to a joint statement made by the Association of Public Health Laboratories and partner groups on Friday.

The groups are:

  1. Healthcare workers and first responders with Covid-19 symptoms. 
  2. Older Americans with Covid-19 symptoms.
  3. Individuals who have other illnesses that would be treated differently if they were infected with Covid-19.

These three groups differ from those recommended to be prioritized by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC recommends testing for:

  • Hospitalized patients with Covid-19 symptoms.
  • Older individuals and those with chronic medical conditions and/or an immunocompromised state.
  • Anyone developing symptoms within 14 days of contact with a presumed or confirmed Covid-19 patient, or travel to an affected geographic area.

The APHL recommended that healthy individuals who are not able to get tested should practice social distancing and follow recommendations provided by their state and local public health authorities. The group also suggested that people with mild illness should stay at home, monitor their symptoms and contact a healthcare provider if symptoms worsen.

“Testing for individuals outside these three groups is not recommended until testing supplies and capacity become more widely available,” the statement said.

12:06 a.m. ET, March 21, 2020

Arizona records its first novel coronavirus death

Authorities in Arizona have confirmed the state's first fatality due to the novel coronavirus.

The Arizona Department of Health Services said in a press release that the patient was a man his 50s with underlying health conditions.

The Maricopa County Department of Public Health is now in the process of notifying close contacts of the individual so they can look out for symptoms.

“We express our deepest sympathy to the family and friends grieving their loved one during this difficult time,” said Dr. Cara Christ, the state health department's director. “COVID-19 is a serious disease that can be fatal in anyone, especially our elderly population and people with underlying health conditions. We expect to see more cases of COVID-19 in Arizona, and there could be more deaths. It is imperative that everyone takes precautions to protect you and your family from this disease.”
11:52 p.m. ET, March 20, 2020

China donates 100,000 coronavirus testing kits to the Philippines

From journalist Chermaine Lee in Hong Kong

A police officer reads the temperatures of people at a checkpoint in Manila, Philippines, on March 16.
A police officer reads the temperatures of people at a checkpoint in Manila, Philippines, on March 16. Aaron Favila/AP

China has donated a total of 100,000 novel coronavirus testing kits to the Philippines, the state-run media Philippines News Agency said Saturday.

The kits -- along with 10,000 N95 face masks, 100,000 surgical masks and 10,000 items of personal protective equipment -- arrived in Manila on Saturday morning, the agency reported.

11:38 p.m. ET, March 20, 2020

Staff member in Vice President's office tests positive for the novel coronavirus

From CNN's Nikki Carvajal and Caroline Kelly

President Donald Trump listens as Vice President Mike Pence speaks during a coronavirus task force briefing at the White House on Friday.
President Donald Trump listens as Vice President Mike Pence speaks during a coronavirus task force briefing at the White House on Friday. Evan Vucci/AP

A staff member in Vice President Mike Pence's office has tested positive for the novel coronavirus, Pence's spokesperson said Friday evening.

"‪This evening we were notified that a member of the Office of the Vice President tested positive for the Coronavirus. Neither President Trump nor Vice President Pence had close contact with the individual," said Katie Miller. "Further contact tracing is being conducted in accordance with CDC guidelines."

Pence has been the Trump administration's point person on coordinating the government's response to the coronavirus pandemic.

While the staffer is the closest confirmed case to Pence that is publicly known, it isn't his first potential brush with the virus.

At least two people tested positive for the coronavirus after attending the American Israel Public Affairs Committee's Policy Conference in Washington, which was attended by Pence as well as several lawmakers and aides.

Both Pence and President Donald Trump attended the Conservative Political Action Conference last month, where a high-profile attendee also tested positive for the coronavirus. Interactions with that attendee sent multiple Republican lawmakers into self-quarantine in the weeks following the conference.

There is no indication that either Trump or Pence "met with or were in close proximity to the attendee" at the conference, White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said in a statement earlier this month.

Read more:

11:20 p.m. ET, March 20, 2020

Pressure mounts for Trump to actually use the Defense Production Act

From CNN's Lauren Fox, Kaitlan Collins and Kristen Holmes in Washington

US President Donald Trump has repeatedly said he's invoking the Defense Production Act to ramp up production, but he hasn't wielded his federal powers yet as health officials voice alarm about potential shortages of lifesaving medical supplies like ventilators and protective gear for doctors on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic.

Trump signed the measure after several people urged him to act amid mounting concerns over a supplies shortage, a person familiar with the situation told CNN. But as he signed the emergency bill earlier this week, the administration had yet to conduct a full account of inventory across the nation. Nor had it identified which companies it would need to make what products. That still hadn't been done as of Friday night, this person said, despite Trump insisting the act would be used to acquire "millions of masks."

Amid the confusion over whether he'll act or not, several companies have cast doubt on whether the President needs to carry out orders under the Defense Production Act at all. And several aides have privately advised against it.

The Defense Production Act, legislation passed in the 1950s on the cusp of the Korean War, provides the President with a broad set of powers to require businesses to "prioritize and accept government contracts" as well as "provide economic incentives" to ensure the US has the stockpiles it needs to handle an impending medical crisis.

Read more:

11:02 p.m. ET, March 20, 2020

Coronavirus symptoms: What they are, and when to seek help

From CNN Health's Sandee LaMotte

What are the telling signs that you may have the novel coronavirus, also known as Covid-19?

The main list of acute symptoms at this time is actually quite short and can appear anywhere from two to 14 days after exposure, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Being able to identify those symptoms and act upon them when necessary is critical. Here's what you need to know.

Here are some of the symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Flu and cold symptoms

So what should you do?

"At this moment, the current guidance -- and this may change -- is that if you have symptoms that are similar to the cold and the flu and these are mild symptoms to moderate symptoms, stay at home and try to manage them with rest, hydration and the use of Tylenol," American Medical Association president Dr. Patrice Harris said.

That advice does not apply if you are over age 60, since immune systems weaken as we age, or if you are pregnant -- anyone with concerns about coronavirus should call their healthcare provider, according to the CDC.

Read more about what to look for here: