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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9:34 a.m. ET, March 23, 2020

US Treasury Secretary asks small businesses not to lay off employees

From CNN's Betsy Klein 

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin talks to reporters at the White House, Friday, March 13.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin talks to reporters at the White House, Friday, March 13. Evan Vucci/AP/FILE

US Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin pleaded with small businesses to not fire their employees as he appeared via phone on Fox Business this morning.

"All small businesses: We will have an immediate mechanism. That’s close to 50% of the US economy for workers. We are encouraging small businesses, make sure you hire people back. If you haven’t let people go, don’t let people go, because we are providing you necessary liquidity and we’re going to get that money out fast," he said. 

He claimed that some "new drugs" have been approved to fight coronavirus when asked if there would need to be a second stimulus if this lasts beyond 10 to 12 weeks. 

"I’m very hopeful that we’re going to kill this virus in that time period, if not shorter. I spoke to the President last night. I know he is very pleased with the medical professionals and then some of these new drugs that have been approved. This legislation prepares us for what I would say, the 10 to 12 week period, but I hope we don’t need to last that long. And for whatever reason, this turns out that it’s gonna last longer, we will go back to Congress," he said. 

He outlined how the current legislation will provide liquidity for small businesses and said it needs to be passed "ASAP."

9:26 a.m. ET, March 23, 2020

India to ground domestic commercial flights

From CNN’s Vedika Sud in New Delhi

Planes are seen parked at Mumbai airport, on  Saturday, March 21, in Mumbai, India.
Planes are seen parked at Mumbai airport, on Saturday, March 21, in Mumbai, India. Satish Bate/Hindustan Times via Getty Images/FILE

Domestic commercial airlines in India will stop operations starting Wednesday, according to a press release from India’s Civil Aviation Ministry.

“Airlines have to plan operations to land at their destination before 23:59 hours on 24/3/2020”, the statement reads.

The restrictions do not apply to cargo-only flights.

9:16 a.m. ET, March 23, 2020

Spain's ICU cases are slowing, bringing "some hope," health official says

From CNN's Mia Alberti

Two health workers stand outside La Paz hospital in Madrid on March 23.
Two health workers stand outside La Paz hospital in Madrid on March 23. Pierre-Philippe Marcou/AFP/Getty Images

The number of patients in ICU due to coronavirus has dropped from 15% to 13% in the last few days, health officials in Spain said on Monday.

Although the decrease is "small," it "gives some hope the problem is being contained," said Fernando Simón, director of the Spanish Coordinating Centre for Health Alerts and Emergencies.

Simón said another "uplifting number" was the number of patients discharged — 3,355 — which now represents 10% of all cases. 

He also gave some insight into the profile of those who have died from the virus: 87% were older than 70 years old, "which was expected and goes in line with our country's normal mortality rate". 

"We know all groups can be affected, but the most affected one are the elderly with more than 70 years of age, which we expected", he said.


9:14 a.m. ET, March 23, 2020

New York City hospitals will only get through this week without more supplies, mayor says

New York City hospitals will only be able to get through “this week” before they start getting “to a point where people can’t be saved,” New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio told CNN’s John Berman on “New Day” Monday morning.

���In our public hospitals, our 11 public hospitals right now, this week, I can only guarantee you right now, John, that we can get through this week with the equipment and supplies we have. That's the blunt reality," de Blasio said.

He added: "If we don't get some relief quickly, and I can count, John, I literally want to see hundreds of ventilators, I want to see first hundreds of thousands and millions of masks, if that doesn't come in starting this week, we will get to a point where people can't be saved who could have been saved."

More than 34,300 Americans have been infected with coronavirus across all 50 states, and at least 414 people have died. Almost half all US cases — 16,887 — are in New York state.

It's shocking to have to say this. Even just a few days ago, I thought we could get safely into April. It's moving so fast right now, that I can't even say that anymore,” de Blasio said.

“If we don't get ventilators this week, we are going to start losing lives we could have saved. I can't be blunter than that," he said.

Last week they mayor’s office said New York City needs 45 million surgical gowns, coveralls, gloves, and face masks – known as personal protective equipment (PPE) – provided early in April to ensure its healthcare system can deal with coronavirus-related issues.

Watch more:

9:03 a.m. ET, March 23, 2020

Postponing summer Olympics should be considered, Japan's Olympic head says

From CNN’s Junko Ogura in Tokyo and Aleks Klosok in London

Jae C. Hong/AP
Jae C. Hong/AP

The Head of the Japan Olympic Committee said postponing this summer’s Games should be considered, among other options, as the coronavirus pandemic continues.

Speaking to reporters on Monday, Yasuhiro Yamashita, said: “From the athletes' point of view of safety and security, we have to come to a stage where we cannot help but consider things including postponement […] I would like to say once again it is not decided that the Olympics is not held in July.”

The International Olympic Committee announced yesterday that it had given itself a deadline of four weeks to make a decision on the Games.

Yamashita, though, warned that too long a delay would be a burden to athletes given the possibility of having to qualify again for the Games.

“I think the postponing period shouldn't be long when we think about the athletes and the Olympic village,” he said.

His comments come after both Canada and Australia’s National Olympic Committees said they would not send athletes to Tokyo this year because of the risks associated with the virus. 

The Japan Olympic Committee is scheduled to hold a board meeting in Tokyo on Friday to discuss the status of this summer’s Games.

8:55 a.m. ET, March 23, 2020

US Secretary of State slams Iran's Supreme Leader over coronavirus

In this picture released by the official website of the office of the Iranian supreme leader, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei sits prior to address nation on state television, in Tehran, Iran, Sunday, March 22.
In this picture released by the official website of the office of the Iranian supreme leader, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei sits prior to address nation on state television, in Tehran, Iran, Sunday, March 22. Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader via AP

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo released a statement today slamming Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and the regime's handling of the coronavirus outbreak

Pompeo's statement said Iran’s “fabrications” are putting Iranian people and others around the world at “greater risk”. 

Some background: On Sunday Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei floated accusations against the US that they had created the coronavirus, questioning why people would trust the US with creating a cure for the virus. He suggested that the US created the coronavirus to "further antagonize" the Iranian people.  

Pompeo said Iran did not take decisive action and are not being transparent about the number of cases and deaths resulting from the coronavirus. 

“The Iranian regime ignored repeated warnings from its own health officials, and denied its first death from the coronavirus for at least nine days. The regime continues to lie to the Iranian people and the world about the number of cases and deaths, which are unfortunately far higher than the regime admits," Pompeo said in the statement.

Pompeo said Iran refused assistance from the United States to deal with the pandemic. “Khamenei rejected this offer because he works tirelessly to concoct conspiracy theories and prioritizes ideology over the Iranian people,” Pompeo said.

Where things stand in Iran: The country confirmed 1,411 new cases of coronavirus infections, bringing the total number of cases to 23,049, Health Ministry spokesperson Kianush Jahanpoor said on state TV Monday.

He said there are 127 new coronavirus-related deaths in the country, bringing the total death toll to 1,812.

8:42 a.m. ET, March 23, 2020

Trump's retweets signal desire to end social distancing after 15 days

From CNN's Nikki Carvajal

President Trump is sending retweets that seem to be encouraging an end to strong social distancing measures after the current 15-day period, despite concern from public health officials that it won't be long enough to blunt the worst of the coronavirus.

“15 days,” one user tweeted. “Then we isolate the high risk groups and the rest of us get back to work before it’s all over for everyone!! #Landslide2020” 

“Flatten the curve NOT the Economy,” reads a follow up tweet.

“After 15 days are over the world can begin to heal!,” another user tweeted. 

Yesterday, Trump tweeted this:

On Monday he retweeted one user, responding to his original tweet, who wrote, “Correct. 15 days, then we keep the high risk groups protected as necessary and the rest of us go back to work.”

8:39 a.m. ET, March 23, 2020

UK prepared to impose stricter distancing measures, as health official calls those who refuse to stay apart "very selfish"

From CNN's Luke McGee and Niamh Kennedy

Pedestrians walk on Primrose Hill with the skyline of central London as a backdrop on Monday, March 23.
Pedestrians walk on Primrose Hill with the skyline of central London as a backdrop on Monday, March 23. Frank Augstein/AP

The British government is prepared to do more to force people to keep apart if necessary, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s spokesperson said Monday.

Pubs and restaurants were told to close across the UK on Friday to curb the spread of coronavirus, but large numbers of people continued to visit parks and beaches across the UK over the weekend, despite government advice to stay home.

“We will look at data to see if people have been interacting. If they have then we will need to take further measures. We are getting data all the time. Discussion are taking place all the time. If we do need to take further measures then we won’t hesitate,” the spokesperson said, adding that public transport and high street footfall data was being monitored "daily."

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said Monday UK citizens who fail to practice government-advised social distancing are “very selfish.”

Speaking on the BBC Radio 4 Today program, Hancock said: “If people go within two meters of others who they don’t live with, then they are helping to spread the virus and the consequence of that costs lives and it means that for everyone this will go on longer.”

Hancock added that the UK government have been “clear in their actions” in asking the British public to maintain a distance of 2m (about 6.5 feet) away from all those they don’t live with.

Watching Europe: Hancock said that the UK government is “looking at what other European countries are doing,” adding: “They are further down the curve. They have a higher number of cases than we do here. Now that means we can act sooner and earlier in this epidemic but all the way through we have said that we are prepared to take the actions that are necessary and we are.”

8:30 a.m. ET, March 23, 2020

US is "looking into" why young people are getting coronavirus

From CNN Health's Jacqueline Howard

US Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams said the US is looking into why young people in the country are being diagnosed with the novel coronavirus.

"So far the demography definitely seems to be very different in the United States versus in other countries that saw this hit earlier," US Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams said on the "Today" show on Monday morning.

"And we're looking into that," Adams told NBC's Savannah Guthrie. 

"There are theories that it could be because we know we have a higher proportion of people in the United States and also in Italy who vape," Adams said. "We don't know if that's the only cause."

In New York state so far, more than half of coronavirus cases — 53% — have been among young people between the ages of 18 and 49, Gov. Andrew Cuomo noted on Sunday.