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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2:59 p.m. ET, March 21, 2020

Vermont governor announces business closures due to coronavirus

From CNN’s Jessica Jordan

Vermont Gov. Phil Scott issued an advisory today directing gymnasiums, fitness centers and similar exercise facilities to close all in-person operations no later than 8 p.m. ET on March 23. 

The advisory also included hair salons and barbers, nail salons, spas and tattoo parlors.

3:04 p.m. ET, March 21, 2020

Trump continues to defer to others on whether the Olympics should be canceled

From CNN's Nicky Robertson

A woman walks beneath a Tokyo 2020 banner on March 19, in Tokyo, Japan.
A woman walks beneath a Tokyo 2020 banner on March 19, in Tokyo, Japan. Carl Court/Getty Images

President Trump said the decision on whether to hold the Tokyo Olympics as planned this summer is “totally up to them,” referring to the Japanese government. 

The President praised the “beautiful” venue that Japan has already built, and said he did not want to influence the decision being made.

"They have built one of the most beautiful venues I've ever seen. They are all ready to go. It's not late, not over budget, it was just done flawlessly and it is beautiful and they're sitting back and saying, you know, I told him, I said, that's your decision and it is his decision," Trump said Saturday during a press conference. "I know he is going to make it soon. I don't what it is going to be and I didn't think I should be influencing it at all."

Some context: The head of USA Swimming wants the Olympics to be postponed to 2021, calling it "the right and responsible thing to do" in a letter to the US Olympic & Paralympic Committee

Tim Hinchey III, the CEO of USA Swimming, asked the group to advocate for the change because "the right and responsible thing to do is to prioritize everyone's health and safety and appropriately recognize the toll this global pandemic is taking on athletic preparations."

2:48 p.m. ET, March 21, 2020

Trump defends his response to the coronavirus pandemic

From CNN's Kevin Bohn

Patrick Semansky/AP
Patrick Semansky/AP

In response to concerns from some doctors complaining about shortage of supplies, President Trump defended the White House’s coronavirus response and placed part of the blame on previous administrations.  

“So many administrations preceded me. For the most part, they did very little, in terms of what you're talking about. This is unprecedented…. this is unprecedented or just about unprecedented. As time goes by we're seeing it's really at a level that nobody would have believed. Nobody would have thought possible. That this could happen," Trump said Saturday at a press conference following a question from CNN.

Trump added: "And we are making much of this stuff now and much of it is being delivered now. We've also gotten tremendous reviews from a lot of people that can't believe how fast it's coming. When I hear they have an order of 55 million masks and that is just one order, that's one order, out of many, and there are many millions of masks beyond that, and I keep saying, how is it possible to use so much? But that's the way it is.”


2:58 p.m. ET, March 21, 2020

Coronavirus death toll in Italy rises by 793

From Valentina di Donato and Hada Messia in Rome

Coffins are unloaded from a military convoy at Ferrara cemetery in northern Italy on March 21.
Coffins are unloaded from a military convoy at Ferrara cemetery in northern Italy on March 21. Massimo Paolone/LaPresse/AP

The death toll in Italy from coronavirus has risen by 793 in the past 24 hours to 4,825, according to the Italian Civil Protection Agency.

Overall, the number of confirmed cases in Italy is 53,578, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

2:11 p.m. ET, March 21, 2020

Texas governor is waiving regulations for nursing students to help expand medical workforce

From CNN's Melissa Alonso 

Texas will issue temporary permits to "nurses who have yet to take the licensing exam" and suspend other regulations for students to assist with the state's response to Covid-19, Gov. Greg Abbott said in a press release Saturday.

Abbott is allowing "nurses with inactive licenses or retired nurses to reactivate their licenses," the release said.

Nursing students in their final year will be allowed to "meet their clinical objectives by exceeding the 50% limit on simulated experiences," the release added.

"In the coming weeks and months, Texas will continue to see a growing need for medical professionals to help us respond to these unique and challenging times," Abbott said.

1:58 p.m. ET, March 21, 2020

New Jersey governor issues "stay at home" order

From CNN's Melanie Schuman

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy announced a statewide "stay at home" order which will go in to effect at 9 p.m. ET Saturday.

This order follows New York and Connecticut which made similar orders Friday.

There are 1,327 confirmed Covid-19 cases in New jersey with 16 deaths in total, Murphy said at a press conference.

There were 400 more COVID-19 confirmed cases since yesterday, Murphy added

“From day one, we’ve made a commitment to be guided by the facts and take any action necessary to protect the health and safety of New Jersey’s nine million residents,” Murphy said in a press release. “We know the virus spreads through person-to person contact, and the best way to prevent further exposure is to limit our public interactions to only the most essential purposes. This is a time for us all to come together in one mission to ‘flatten the curve’ and slow – and eventually halt – the spread of coronavirus.”

The order will prohibit all gatherings, such as celebrations, the governor said.

Murphy’s executive order further directs the closure of all non-essential retail businesses to the public, with the exceptions of:

  • Grocery stores, farmer's markets and farms that sell directly to customers, and other food stores, including retailers that offer a varied assortment of foods comparable to what exists at a grocery store
  • Pharmacies and medical marijuana dispensaries
  • Medical supply stores
  • Gas stations
  • Convenience stores
  • Ancillary stores within healthcare facilities
  • Hardware and home improvement stores
  • Banks and other financial institutions
  • Laundromats and dry-cleaning services
  • Stores that principally sell supplies for children under five years
  • Pet stores
  • Liquor stores
  • Car dealerships, but only for auto maintenance and repair, and auto mechanics
  • Printing and office supply shops
  • Mail and delivery stores
2:12 p.m. ET, March 21, 2020

Top infectious disease doctor: "Not every single person in the United States needs to get tested"

From CNN’s Jason Hoffman

Patrick Semansky/AP
Patrick Semansky/AP

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, stressed that not all Americans should be tested for coronavirus during a White House press conference Saturday.

Fauci noted if people get tested unnecessarily, they will utilize important personal protective equipment that could be used for those who do need to be tested or are at a greater risk.

"Not every single person in the United States needs to get tested," Fauci said

Fauci noted that right now there are disparities in the amount of available personal protective equipment though, “we are working hard to correct that.”

Fauci also reiterated doctors should put off elective surgeries for the time being so they don’t put themselves of others at risk by utilizing medical equipment. 

1:33 p.m. ET, March 21, 2020

Pence and his wife will be tested Saturday afternoon for coronavirus

From CNN's Veronica Stracqualursi and Jason Hoffman

Vice President Mike Pence said Saturday during a news conference that he and his wife Karen would be tested for the coronavirus.

Pence said that more than 195,000 Americans have been tested for the virus. Pence noted that number does not include county hospitals or health care labs around the country.

Currently, only 19,343 tests have come back positive, Pence said.

Earlier Saturday: President Trump told reporters that Congress is close to reaching a deal on a proposal for the next stimulus bill to deal with the pandemic.

On Saturday, congressional and administration negotiators entered a crucial day in the effort to deploy more than $1 trillion in emergency stimulus to a staggering economy, with a growing consensus on a final agreement, but a handful of significant hang-ups still needed to be resolved.

2:10 p.m. ET, March 21, 2020

Pence: US Department of Health and Human Services has ordered "hundreds of millions of N95 masks"

Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images
Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

Vice President Mike Pence announced Saturday during a coronavirus task force meeting that the Department of Health and Human Services has placed a huge order for N95 masks needed to fight the coronavirus pandemic.

"I am pleased to report to the President today that HHS just placed an order for hundreds of millions of N95 masks made available to health care providers across the country," Pence said.

Pence then addressed the need to postpone certain medical procedures across the US out of precaution.

"On behalf of the President, we do renew the call for Americans to postpone elective medical procedures, including dental services, and this is another way to make sure that the medical supplies are available, by postponing elective medical procedures, you are freeing up medical supplies for those dealing with the coronavirus," he said.