March 23 coronavirus news

By Julia Hollingsworth, James Griffiths, Adam Renton, Meg Wagner, Mike Hayes and Amy Woodyatt, CNN

Updated 9:46 p.m. ET, March 23, 2020
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7:23 p.m. ET, March 23, 2020

Trump acknowledges coronavirus likely to worsen: "Certainly this is going to be bad"

From CNN's Kevin Liptak 

President Trump acknowledged Monday the effects of coronavirus are likely to worsen.

"Certainly this is going to be bad,” Trump said, agreeing with remarks his surgeon general made earlier in the day predicting a deteriorating situation this week. 

“We’re trying to make it much much less bad," Trump went on. "Obviously the numbers are going to increase with time and then they're going to decrease.”

The President seemed to downplay the situation somewhat, indicating the flu presented a similarly poor outlook: “We have a lot of people dying from the flu,” he said.

He suggested the period of national self-isolation guidance would not last months as he looks to restart the American economy.

“I'm not looking at months, I'll tell you right now,” Trump said. “We’re going to open up our country.”

Trump repeatedly said the period of containment measures recommended by the federal government wouldn’t stretch to three or four months.

He wouldn’t put a firm timeline on when the recommendations on social distancing would end.

Watch here:

7:25 p.m. ET, March 23, 2020

Pence says patients can now swab themselves for coronavirus

From CNN's Sarah Westwood

Vials and swabs sit in bins at a coronavirus testing center in Newton, Massachusetts, on March 18.
Vials and swabs sit in bins at a coronavirus testing center in Newton, Massachusetts, on March 18. Adam Glanzman/The Washington Post/Getty Images

Vice President Mike Pence said the Food and Drug Administration has approved self-collected samples for Covid-19 testing, which he said would reduce the strain on medical supplies and professionals.

Pence said he and President Trump had asked the FDA to pursue “less invasive methods of testing” after they both endured their own tests, which require deep nasal swabs.

“I’m pleased to report that self-collected swabs can now be collected in clinics and drive-through testing sites,” Pence said.

He said asking doctors to perform the swabs creates a “drain on personal protective equipment.” 

Medical professionals will still perform the actual tests on the swabs that patients take and hand in at health care facilities.

Watch here:

7:05 p.m. ET, March 23, 2020

Pence: More than 41,000 coronavirus tests in the US have come back positive

From CNN's Jason Hoffman

Alex Brandon/AP
Alex Brandon/AP

Vice President Mike Pence said during Monday's White House press briefing that 313,000 coronavirus tests having been completed with more than 41,000 tests having come back positive.

In the past, Pence noted the testing numbers he provides do not include community hospitals or community labs, but he did not make that disclaimer during the press briefing Monday.

He added all state and hospital labs are now required to report their coronavirus test numbers to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“We also reminded the governors today that all state laboratories, all hospital laboratories, are now required, by law, to report the results of coronavirus tests to the CDC,” Pence said.

6:49 p.m. ET, March 23, 2020

New Mexico issues stay-at-home order

From CNN's Konstantin Toropin

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham tweeted Monday that she instituting a “statewide stay-at-home instruction."

“All New Mexicans are instructed to stay at home except for outings essential to health, safety, and welfare,” Grisham tweeted.

The governor also declared that “all businesses except those deemed essential to public health, safety and well-being will be ordered closed,” she said.

“Our society must continue to operate – but in an extremely limited way,” she said.

6:42 p.m. ET, March 23, 2020

Trump issues executive order to prohibit hoarding of medical equipment

From CNN's Jason Hoffman and Daniella Diaz

President Trump outlined Monday an executive order he signed that will prohibit hoarding of medical equipment and supplies used for treating and preventing coronavirus.

The order will “prohibit the hoarding of vital medical equipment and supplies, such as hand sanitizers, face masks, and personal protective equipment," he said at the coronavirus task force briefing.

The executive order is also meant at preventing price gouging on critical health and medical resources.

Trump said that the Health and Human Services Department will designate certain items as “scarce” and it will be a crime to stockpile those items.

"Very simply, we'll not allow anyone to exploit the suffering of American citizens for their own profit,” Trump said.

Attorney General William Barr said the Department of Justice has seen some evidence of hoarding and price gouging on health and medical resources that were authorized under the Defense Production Act. 

Barr said the new executive order provides, “the authority to address, if it becomes necessary, hoarding that threatens the supply of those necessary health and medical resources.”

He also said this won't affect Americans who have stocked on toilet paper and other necessities.

"I want to stress that we're not talking about consumers or businesses stockpiling supplies for their own operations," he said at the briefing. "We're talking about people hoarding these goods and materials on an industrial scale for the purpose of manipulating the market and ultimately deriving windfall profits. If you have a big supply of toilet paper in your house, this is not something you have to worry about."

6:57 p.m. ET, March 23, 2020

Trump says FEMA is distributing millions of masks

From CNN's Sarah Westwood 

Alex Brandon/AP
Alex Brandon/AP

President Trump said the Federal Emergency Management Agency is distributing millions of masks and that personal protective equipment for medical professionals is being shipped to what he described as “hotspots” around the country.

Trump said FEMA will distribute 8 million N95 masks, the type recommended for protection against coronavirus. 

He said 73 pallets of personal protective equipment will be shipped to New York, and 36 pallets will be sent to Washington state – two areas where Covid-19 has hit particularly hard. 

“We’re having millions and millions of masks made as we speak,” Trump said at the coronavirus task force briefing.

Trump said the badly-needed supplies will go to “medical hotspots” around the country. Healthcare workers around the US have warned of looming supply shortages if the outbreak escalates.

“Across the nation we are seeing an outpouring of creativity and innovative ideas,” Trump said. “The scientific community and members of the private sector are really working together.”

Watch here:

6:48 p.m. ET, March 23, 2020

Trump: "It's very important that we totally protect our Asian American community"

From CNN's Betsy Klein

President Trump on Monday opened the coronavirus task force briefing by echoing his tweet on Asian Americans, a message that comes after days of casting coronavirus as "China virus" and "Chinese virus."

After consulting with medical experts, and receiving guidance from the World Health Organization, CNN has determined that that name is both inaccurate and is considered stigmatizing.

"It’s very important that we totally protect our Asian American community in the United States and all around the world. They’re amazing people. And the spreading of the virus is not their fault in any way, shape, or form. They’re working closely with us to get rid of it. We will prevail together, it’s very important," he said, emphasizing the word "Asian."

Note that Trump used the words "they" and "us" when referring to Asian Americans. 

He also extended well wishes to a member of the White House press corps who is awaiting coronavirus test results. 

"I see we have fewer people because of the virus problem. We appreciate you being here. This is getting to be more and more social distancing and that's fine, that's the way it should be...We extend our best wishes to the person affected," he said. 

Watch here:

6:33 p.m. ET, March 23, 2020

Trump says a decision on "opening our country" could come at the end of 15-day period

From CNN's Daniella Diaz

AP Photo/Alex Brandon
AP Photo/Alex Brandon

President Trump said Monday he hopes to reassess his instructions for people to stay home amid the coronavirus outbreak in the United States.

"We cannot let the cure be worse than the problem itself. We're not going to let the cure be worse than the problem. At the end of the 15-day period, we'll make a decision as to which way we want to go," he said during the daily coronavirus briefing.

Trump said he hopes the United States will soon be "open for business."

He added: "And essentially, we're referring to the timing of the opening, essentially, the opening of our country. Because we have it pretty well shut-down in order to get rid of this invisible enemy."

6:33 p.m. ET, March 23, 2020

National Guard called up to replenish grocery stores in Arizona

From CNN's Andy Rose

Arizona’s National Guard is fighting coronavirus by filling grocery shelves.

Gov. Doug Ducey said the state is employing them to help with the most immediate need — dealing with empty shelves for basic provisions. 

“They’re not going to be grocery store workers. They’re going to close the gap in terms of what was missing," Ducey said.

The governor said with the Guard helping to direct distribution, each store can be fully stocked, and stores can stay supplied as long as people spread out their shopping trips.

“If you’re going to go shopping, buy a week’s worth of groceries once a week. If you’ll do that, you’ll come back the next week, and the shelves will be full," Ducey said.

He said once store supplies stabilize, the Guard can be used for other purposes, such as helping hospitals with supplies and facilities.