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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12:32 p.m. ET, March 23, 2020

New Jersey suspends elective surgeries starting Friday

New Jersey is suspending all elective surgeries and invasive procedures scheduled to take place after 5 p.m. ET Friday until further notice, Gov. Phil Murphy announced at a news conference Monday.

About the executive order: It “applies to all medical and dental operations that can be delayed without undue risk to the current or future health of the patient, as determined by the patient’s physician or dentist.”

12:25 p.m. ET, March 23, 2020

Maryland shuts down all nonessential businesses

From CNN's Gregory Lemos

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan is closing nonessential businesses as of 5 p.m. ET today, but he is not issuing a “shelter in place” order.

"We are telling you, unless you have an essential reason to leave your house you should stay in your homes," Hogan said Monday. 

Today’s order shuts down all businesses considered non-critical infrastructure sectors as defined by federal guidelines issued last week.

12:20 p.m. ET, March 23, 2020

Florida will deliver more than 200,000 pieces of medical equipment to facilities across the state


Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said today that in the next 48 hours the Department of Emergency Management will send out more than 200,000 personal protection equipment items to facilities across the state in response to the Covid-19 outbreak. 

The items include: 

  • Almost 60,000 N95 masks 
  • 141,000 procedure masks 
  • Nearly 27,000 shields
  • 22,000 gowns
  • 28,000 gloves 
12:16 p.m. ET, March 23, 2020

Merkel tests negative in first coronavirus test

From CNN's Nadine Schmidt in Berlin

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has tested negative for coronavirus after taking a preliminary test. 

“The result of today’s test is negative and further tests will be carried over the next few days,” a spokesperson for the Chancellery has told CNN.

On Sunday, a spokesperson for Merkel said the chancellor will self-quarantine after coming into contact with a person who tested positive for coronavirus, and would be continually tested throughout.

12:21 p.m. ET, March 23, 2020

European Union will provide more than $20 million in aid to Iran for coronavirus

From James Frater, CNN London

The European Union will provide more than $20 million in humanitarian aid to Iran, one of the countries hardest hit by Covid-19.

The aid is in the “pipelines” and is expected to be delivered in the “next weeks,” Joseph Borrell, High Representative for the European Union told CNN. “We are going to support this request because these countries are in a very difficult situation mainly due to the American sanctions that prevent them from having income by selling their oil.”

“We believe in these situations it has to be reaffirmed that humanitarian trades, goods that can be delivered to these countries on a humanitarian level – it means agri-food. It means medicines. It means medical stuff – are not on the American sanctions.”

The situation in Iran: On Monday, Health Ministry spokesman Kianush Jahanpoor told state news that the country has confirmed 1,411 new cases of coronavirus infections, bringing the total number of cases to over 23,000.

12:12 p.m. ET, March 23, 2020

US Senate leader: "Sure hope" we can get a coronavirus bill deal

Senate TV
Senate TV

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was just asked if they could secure a deal on the coronavirus aid package.

"Sure, hope so," he said.

Where things stand now: The emergency aid package has grown to $2 trillion. Bipartisan negotiators spent dozens of hours over the last three days hammering out a historically unprecedented, sweeping package to save an economy that is about to fall off a cliff. There’s universal recognition it needs to get through Congress as soon as possible. And yet here we are — on the day of the self-imposed deadline for completion — and the stare down between congressional leaders is very much still in effect with potentially catastrophic consequences. 

McConnell declined to comment further or say if he backs remote voting now that at least one senator has tested positive for coronavirus.

12:03 p.m. ET, March 23, 2020

US senator says the chamber voting remotely is "inevitable"

From CNN's Sunlen Serfaty

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, the ranking member of the Senate Rules Committee, said today it will become “inevitable” that the Senate will change the rules to allow voting remotely, as more members of Congress become sick or are quarantined.

“I think at some point it’s going to become inevitable and it will have to be of course limited to an emergency like this,” Klobuchar said today on a conference call with reporters. “I think the fact that we will have people that are quarantined as we do right now, a number of the senators, it just hits home that people are going to keep getting quarantined even if they are not sick.”

She added:

“We’ve got to find a way. The technology exists. Many departments of the government use technology that allows them. 

Klobuchar said she continues to push leadership and Sen. Roy Blunt, the chairman of the Rules committee, about the Durbin-Portman legislation that calls for a rule change to allow for senators to vote remotely. Blunt has so far rejected calls to change the rules.  

“Senator Blunt hasn’t changed his position but is listening,” she said, adding that she spoke to Blunt as recently as yesterday on this issue. “I am continuing to push.”

Additionally, Klobuchar also spoke briefly about her husband’s diagnosis of coronavirus saying, “While I wish I was with him, I’m going to keep working in the Senate to get help to the American people.”

11:56 a.m. ET, March 23, 2020

Mexico will hand hospitals over to the army to prepare for "critical stage" of coronavirus outbreak

From CNN's Hira Humayun and Jackie Castillo

People walk outside the IMSS regional hospital #1 of Queretaro on March 20, in Queretaro, Mexico. A
People walk outside the IMSS regional hospital #1 of Queretaro on March 20, in Queretaro, Mexico. A César Gómez/Jam Media/Getty Images

Mexico will hand over control of approximately 10 hospitals to the army to prepare the country to deal with the “critical stage” of the coronavirus outbreak, Mexican president Andrés Manuel López Obrador said in a video posted on his Twitter account on Sunday.

In the video, he said the hospitals are new and in need of equipment and staffing. 

Obrador ended his remarks by announcing the country "is prepared" and will be triumphant against the war on coronavirus.

12:08 p.m. ET, March 23, 2020

Top infectious diseases specialist in southern Russia faces jail for spreading coronavirus

From CNN’s Mary Ilyushina in Moscow

A criminal case has been opened against a top infectious diseases specialist who tested positive for coronavirus after violating mandatory quarantine and spreading the disease in her region, a regional branch of the Investigative Committee, Russia’s top law-enforcement body, said Monday.

A statement released by committee said the agency’s Stavropol branch had charged a professor of infectious diseases at the Stavropol Medical Institute for allegedly failing to disclose a trip abroad to her employers and evading a mandatory two-week quarantine upon return to Russia.

According to the statement, the woman — who also holds a position as a top infectious diseases consultant with the local branch of the Ministry of Health — had vacationed in Spain between March 6 and 9, and allegedly failed to disclose her travels. 

The woman continued her usual way of life — gave lectures at the university, participated in a conference, visited other institutions and departments, and a few days later, on March 17, due to health deterioration, was hospitalized and diagnosed with coronavirus infection COVID-19,” the Investigative Committee alleged.

Criminal proceedings have been launched based on “negligence” and “concealment of information that endangers the life or health of people,” both articles of Russia’s criminal code, the Investigative Committee added.

Vladimir Vladimirov, the regional governor, said authorities were working to establish the suspect’s contacts in the past days, and were testing over 1,200 people for coronavirus. In 11 cases, the preliminary tests returned positive, Vladimirov said in an Instagram post. 

Violation of quarantine is punishable by law in Russia by up to five years in prison if the violation leads to a coronavirus-related death. The Investigative Committee did not publish the name of the woman alleged to have violated quarantine, a matter of practice in the agency’s public statements.