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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6:03 p.m. ET, March 22, 2020

A New York hospital system is barring visitors, including partners, during childbirth

From CNN Health’s Michael Nedelman

A health care system in New York is no longer allowing visitors, including partners, for its patients about to give birth, citing coronavirus risk.

"For the time being, we really do need to exclude all visitors, including partners, for women admitted in labor," Dr. Dena Goffman, chief of obstetrics at Columbia University Medical Center, said Sunday during a daily leadership briefing for the NewYork-Presbyterian health care system.

Goffman described the move as a "very difficult decision and not one taken lightly."

NewYork-Presbyterian has also made the decision to test all women in labor who are admitted to labor and delivery units for Covid-19, regardless of symptoms.

Goffman said there had been a number of patients with little to no symptoms upon admission, and others with atypical symptoms, who were later found to test positive for the novel coronavirus. Moreover, "many symptoms of labor and of pregnant women really mimic some of the symptoms of Covid-19," including fatigue and shortness of breath, she added.

"As a result, these women were not identified by our usual screening, infection prevention and control, or testing processes, and therefore our practices for protection for Covid-19 were not implemented. In this case, many staff members were exposed," Goffman said. 

Testing women in labor, she added, would allow doctors to isolate newborns who may have been exposed to the virus, thus preventing outbreaks in neonatal ICUs and well-baby nurseries. 

Absent in-person visitors for these patients, Goffman said the hospital system was looking into ways to allow families to participate virtually in childbirth, perhaps through tablet computers.

"We recognize that we will need to provide additional support for moms, as well as mom and baby pairs, as they're in the hospital through the duration of their stay," she said.

2:22 p.m. ET, March 22, 2020

UK to introduce "shielding measures" for vulnerable people amid coronavirus outbreak

Ian Vogler/Pool/AFP/Getty Images
Ian Vogler/Pool/AFP/Getty Images

The United Kingdom's 1.5 million most vulnerable citizens are being told to stay at home for the next 12 weeks to help shield them from coronavirus.

Communities Minister Robert Jenrick says authorities will be writing to those who’ve been identified to offer them assistance to maintain social distancing during the outbreak. This includes providing food, so they don’t have to leave the house 

The announcement was made at Sunday’s daily press briefing at Downing Street, alongside Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

Johnson said the measures being announced today were foreshadowed in the government’s response plan.

“This shielding will do more than any other single measure that we are setting out, to save life,” Johnson said.
2:12 p.m. ET, March 22, 2020

Spain to extend coronavirus state of emergency as deaths soar

From CNN's Rob Picheta

Spain plans to extend its state of emergency for another 15 days, Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez announced Sunday, as the number of Covid-19 deaths soars in the country.

Sanchez addressed citizens in a televised briefing on Sunday, after meeting with health and security officials.

He said he expected Parliament to approve his request to lengthen the order, which has been in place for over a week.

By the numbers: It comes with the country's death toll from the virus accelerating. The country's health ministry said on Sunday that another 394 had died in just the past 24 hours, bringing the total number of confirmed fatalities to 1,720.

2:14 p.m. ET, March 22, 2020

German chancellor goes into self-quarantine

From CNN’s Fred Pleitgen in Berlin

Michael Kappeler/AFP/Getty Images
Michael Kappeler/AFP/Getty Images

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is going into home quarantine immediately, after a doctor who gave her a vaccination on Friday has tested positive for coronavirus, Merkel's spokesman Steffen Seibert announced in a press statement on Sunday.

Seibert also stated that the chancellor will continuously be tested for coronavirus because a test at this early stage would not be reliable. Merkel will continue her full workload from her quarantine, Seibert added.

Earlier Sunday: Germany has implemented a "contact ban" rather than a full nationwide lockdown in an effort to curb the spread of coronavirus, Merkel said.

Merkel said in a press conference Sunday that the country would toughen measures and "reduce contact with people as much as possible."


2:36 p.m. ET, March 22, 2020

Half of patients tested at one New York health care system yesterday were positive for Covid-19

From CNN Health’s Michael Nedelman

NewYork-Presbyterian performed more than 500 tests for the novel coronavirus Saturday, and 50% came out positive.

"That's very high," Chief Operating Officer Dr. Laura L. Forese said in a leadership briefing Sunday.

Forese said the hospitals had 558 Covid-19 inpatients, and about 1 in 5 are receiving ICU care.

That number "is a snapshot. It's changing probably as I'm speaking to you today," she said. "We have many more who have been sent home, either Covid-positive tested, or presumed to have that."

Some context: Like other health care systems around the country, NewYork-Presbyterian is not able to test every patient for Covid-19, citing a shortage of swab kits.

Of nearly 30,000 cases in the United States, more than 15,000 are in New York state, including more than 9,000 in New York City.

2:27 p.m. ET, March 22, 2020

Sen. Rand Paul has coronavirus

Win McNamee/Getty Images
Win McNamee/Getty Images

Sen. Rand Paul, a Republican from Kentucky, has tested positive for coronavirus, according to a tweet sent from his official account.

“He is feeling fine and is in quarantine. He is asymptomatic and was tested out of an abundance of caution due to his extensive travel and events. He was not aware of any direct contact with any infected person," the tweet said.

Sen. Paul’s Deputy Chief of Staff Sergio Gor expanded on the tweet saying in a statement, “He (Paul) expects to be back in the Senate after his quarantine period ends and will continue to work for the people of Kentucky at this difficult time. Ten days ago, our D.C. office began operating remotely, hence virtually no staff has had contact with Senator Paul.”

More context: Paul had part of his lung removed last year as a result from the assault by his neighbor which also broke five of his ribs.

Read Paul's tweet:


2:04 p.m. ET, March 22, 2020

TSA officers in Orlando and New York test positive for coronavirus

From CNN's Greg Wallace

The interior of Terminal 1 at John F. Kennedy International Airport on March 12.
The interior of Terminal 1 at John F. Kennedy International Airport on March 12. Kena Betancur/AFP/Getty Images

Transportation Security Administration officers at the airports in Orlando and New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport have tested positive for coronavirus, the agency said Sunday. 

This brings the total to 22 TSA officers who have tested positive, according to TSA records.

The officer in Orlando is the fourth one to test positive there, according to the TSA, and most recently worked one week ago, in the morning and early afternoon of March 15. 

Some context: The agency has previously reported three other cases at the Orlando airport. Those officers most recently worked March 16, March 11 and March 10. 

A fifth security screening officer at JFK has tested positive for the coronavirus, TSA said Sunday. 

The officer last worked overnight on Wednesday. 

The other TSA screeners at JFK who tested positive worked their most recent shifts on March 15, 13 and 12. 

1:40 p.m. ET, March 22, 2020

Italy coronavirus death toll rises by 651 in past 24 hours

From Barbie Nadeau in Rome

The death toll in Italy from coronavirus has risen by 651 in the past 24 hours to 5,476 according to the Italian Civil Protection Agency.

That is a smaller increase than the previous 24 hour period, but still represents an increase of 13.5 percent since Saturday.

Overall, the number of confirmed cases has risen by 5,560 to 59,138. which is also a smaller increase than Saturday’s figures.

1:29 p.m. ET, March 22, 2020

Germany to ban gatherings of more than 2 people

From CNN’s Nadine Schmidt in Berlin

People sit outside at the East Side Gallery in Berlin on March 22.
People sit outside at the East Side Gallery in Berlin on March 22. Paul Zinken/Picture Alliance via Getty Images

Germany has implemented a "contact ban" rather than a full nationwide lockdown in an effort to curb the spread of coronavirus, says German Chancellor Angela Merkel. 

Merkel said in a press conference Sunday that the country would toughen measures and "reduce contact with people as much as possible."

"To that end, Germany will ban gatherings of more than two people," Merkel said.

Merkel extrapolated on the ban in a phone conversation between herself and the 16 German state premiers on Sunday, saying a contact ban will be implemented, meaning no more than two people would be allowed to interact with each other — with the exceptions of families and people living together.

Merkel said that "a minimum distance of 1.5 to 2 meters" should be adhered to and meetings in groups are now unacceptable and will be sanctioned if not adhered to. 

Further, Merkel added that restaurants, as well as hair salons, and tattoo shops will also be shut down.

Merkel said these measures would be in place for at least two weeks.