March 22 coronavirus news

By Julia Hollingsworth, Jenni Marsh, Rob Picheta, Fernando Alfonso III and Amir Vera, CNN

Updated 10:30 p.m. ET, March 22, 2020
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9:28 p.m. ET, March 22, 2020

DC to use National Guard to help prevent cherry blossom crowds in nation's capital

From CNN’s Kevin Bohn

Pedestrians walk around the Tidal Basin in Washington, DC, to view the city's famous cherry blossoms in full bloom on March 21.
Pedestrians walk around the Tidal Basin in Washington, DC, to view the city's famous cherry blossoms in full bloom on March 21. Eric Baradat/AFP/Getty Images

Mayor Muriel Bowser announced Sunday that she is ordering the Washington, DC, National Guard to work with police to restrict pedestrian access to areas where crowds have been flocking to view the cherry blossoms, which are in peak bloom, according to a news release from the mayor’s office.

The mayor says the road closures and restrictions around the Tidal Basin, including the Jefferson Memorial, "will continue until further notice to ensure social distancing and prevent further community transmission of COVID-19."

The National Cherry Blossom Festival would have taken place from March 20 to April 12, but restrictions and stay-at-home orders across the country to most of the festival being canceled.

As a result, the festival tweeted they opened a virtual tour for those wanting to see the cherry blossoms.

9:14 p.m. ET, March 22, 2020

Italy is requesting US military support for coronavirus battle

From CNN's Ryan Browne

The government of Italy has made a direct appeal to Defense Secretary Mark Esper for US military aid in combating coronavirus, according to a US defense official.

Specifically, Italy's defense minister has asked Esper for critical medical equipment like masks and ventilators as Italy has nearly 60,000 confirmed cases and has had more than 5,000 deaths. The Italian government has requested that US military personnel stationed in Italy assist Italian authorities by providing medical personnel and field hospitals in support of Italian troops already responding to the crisis there.

Esper recently made the Defense Department’s stockpile of masks and ventilators available to civilian hospitals in the US to help respond to the pandemic. The military has activated units capable of constructing field hospitals to help relieve the burden on civilian hospitals.

The Italian plea for assistance from its NATO ally comes as the Russian military has made a very public effort to provide the Italians with assistance, using military aircraft to fly in medical personnel and equipment.

9:33 p.m. ET, March 22, 2020

Olympic gold medalist with coronavirus says its 'by far the worst virus I have ever endured'

From CNN’s Jill Martin

Retired South African swimmer Cameron van der Burgh, the 2012 Olympic 100-meter breaststroke champion, says he has coronavirus.

In a series of tweets on Sunday, the 31-year-old discussed dealing with the illness, calling it "by far the worst virus I have ever endured."

Van der Burgh retired from swimming in 2018.

The International Olympic Committee's executive board said Sunday it is considering postponing -- but not canceling -- this summer's Olympic Games in Tokyo because of the coronavirus pandemic.

9:10 p.m. ET, March 22, 2020

President Trump approves California disaster declaration

From CNN's Jason Hoffman

Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)
Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)

President Donald Trump approved California's request for a disaster declaration Sunday, according to a White House news release.

The declaration means the state can receive federal assistance to supplement state, tribal and local recovery efforts to areas affected by the coronavirus outbreak, the release said. It also provides federal funding for crisis counseling for all those affected in California.

9:01 p.m. ET, March 22, 2020

President Trump says he is considering an executive order freeing elderly nonviolent federal prisoners

From CNN's Nicky Robertson

President Donald Trump said Sunday he is considering an executive order to free elderly "totally nonviolent" federal prisoners.

"We have been asked about that, and we're going to take a look at it. It's a bit of a problem. But when we talk about totally nonviolent, we're talking about these are totally nonviolent prisoners, we're actually looking at that, yes," Trump told reporters at a White House news conference.

Several states, including California, New York, Ohio and Texas, and New York City have started releasing low-level offenders as well as those who are elderly or sick because of the virus.

8:58 p.m. ET, March 22, 2020

Ecuador coronavirus deaths increase

From CNN’s Taylor  Barnes

The number of coronavirus deaths in Ecuador doubled between Saturday and Sunday, according the country’s health ministry.

The ministry reported 14 coronavirus deaths Sunday, up from seven Saturday.

Ecuador’s health ministry reported the number of positive cases more than tripled in a one-week span. On Sunday, the health ministry reported 789 confirmed cases of the virus. At the beginning of the week, the government had reported 58 confirmed cases.

8:50 p.m. ET, March 22, 2020

United Arab Emirates suspend all inbound and outbound passenger flights for two weeks

From CNN’s Mohammed Tawfeeq

Medical equipment and coronavirus testing kits provided by the World Health Organization are transported at Dubai World Central airport in Dubai on March 2.
Medical equipment and coronavirus testing kits provided by the World Health Organization are transported at Dubai World Central airport in Dubai on March 2. Karim Sahib/AFP/Getty Images

The United Arab Emirates suspended all inbound and outbound passenger flights and "the transit of airline passengers" in the UAE for two weeks to combat the spread of coronavirus, according to the UAE's state-run news agency WAM.

The decision will take effect in 48 hours, WAM reported.

8:38 p.m. ET, March 22, 2020

Saudi Arabia orders daily curfew

From CNN's Mohammed Tawfeeq 

Saudi Arabia has ordered a daily curfew between 7 p.m. to 6 a.m. local time beginning Monday, according to Saudi state-run SPA news.

The curfew is scheduled to last for 21 days and came directly from Saudi Arabia's King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud, SPA said in its report.

Security, health, water, electricity, trash collection and media sectors are excluded from the curfew, according to SPA.

Saudi Arabia says it is taking these measures to contain the spread of coronavirus in the country.

8:39 p.m. ET, March 22, 2020

Philadelphia announces stay-at-home order

From CNN’s Anna Sturla

A pedestrian walks past Independence Hall in Philadelphia on Monday, March 16.
A pedestrian walks past Independence Hall in Philadelphia on Monday, March 16. Matt Rourke/AP

Pennsylvania’s largest city announced a stay-at-home order Sunday, prohibiting "all public and private gatherings of any number of people occurring outside a single household or living unit," according to a press release from the Philadelphia mayor's office.

The order will go into effect Monday at 8 a.m.

Essential personal activities, such as obtaining essential goods and services, seeking medical attention, caring for family members in another household, or reporting to a job at an essential business, are exempt from the restriction.