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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4:01 p.m. ET, March 23, 2020

Malaria drug will be one of the treatment options in coronavirus clinical trial, WHO officials say

From CNN's Minali Nigam and Jacqueline Howard

A packet of Nivaquine tablets containing chloroquine, a commonly used malaria drug.
A packet of Nivaquine tablets containing chloroquine, a commonly used malaria drug. Gerard Julien/AFP/Getty Images

World Health Organization officials said that chloroquine, a drug typically used to treat malaria, will be one option included in a large, global clinical trial evaluating potential coronavirus treatment.

“There’s some indications that it could be useful but there are no clear-cut studies that have been rigorously done to either prove or disprove that chloroquine is effective,” WHO chief scientist Dr. Soumya Swaminathan said during a call with reporters on Monday.

This comes after the announcement President Trump made last week that the US Food and Drug Administration approved the “very powerful” drug chloroquine to treat coronavirus and that there were “very, very encouraging early results.”

The FDA later tempered the President's remarks regarding chloroquine as an approved treatment, noting larger studies are needed to draw conclusions.

Currently there are no treatments — including chloroquine —that have proven safe and effective against Covid-19, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a separate press briefing on Monday.

“There is a desperate need for effective therapeutics. There is currently no treatment that has been proven to be effective against Covid-19,” Tedros said on Monday.

WHO announced last week that it had organized the SOLIDARITY trial to examine potential treatment options for Covid-19 — chloroquine being one of them.

“We understand that this situation is very complex. Everybody, including President Trump, is trying to identify treatments that could help their people. And I think everybody is interested in further exploring the potential of chloroquine, so we are,” said Dr. Ana Maria Henao-Restrepo, a medical officer at WHO's Department of Immunization Vaccines and Biologicals.

Even without clinical evidence, some patients with Covid-19 are already taking chloroquine, but there could be harm in that too, Swaminathan said. Over the weekend, three people in Nigeria overdosed on the drug, which can cause seizures, nausea, vomiting, deafness, vision changes and low blood pressure.

“We have no knowledge that it’s going to benefit anyone,” Swaminathan said. “It is a really important point to focus our efforts on generating the evidence which could then be used to treat people properly and effectively.”


4:06 p.m. ET, March 23, 2020

US vice president asks governors to identify devices that could be converted into ventilators

From CNN's Maegan Vazquez 

Alex Brandon/AP
Alex Brandon/AP

Vice President Mike Pence there may be an opportunity to increase the current ventilator supply in American hospitals by converting devices used by anesthesiologists.

Pence said his team told governors on a call today, “that when the President engaged leaders of a number of medical associations, we determined that the devices that are used by anesthesiologists could be easily converted to ventilators that could be used for people struggling with the coronavirus.” 

Pence, who was speaking from Federal Emergency Management Agency headquarters, said that the FDA has “issued guidance on the changing of a vent in that piece of equipment.”

“And so we directed all of our governors today to survey all of their outpatient clinics to identify what we believe are tens of thousands of these devices which could add to our nation’s resources for ventilators for people that might be severely impacted by the coronavirus,” Pence continued.

Pence said the option received a “strong response” from governors on the call. 

3:43 p.m. ET, March 23, 2020

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac pause mortgages for property owners as long as they don’t evict tenants

From CNN’s Anneken Tappe

The US Federal Housing Finance Agency is working to protect renters in multi-family properties during the coronavirus pandemic and its effects on the US economy.

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will grant owners of multi-family properties who are "negatively affected by the coronavirus national emergency" forbearance of mortgage payments — as long as they don't evict renters who are unable to pay because of the coronavirus impact.

“Renters should not have to worry about being evicted from their home, and property owners should not have to worry about losing their building, due to the coronavirus," said FHFA director Mark Calabria in a statement.
3:43 p.m. ET, March 23, 2020

New York City has more than 12,000 coronavirus cases

From CNN’s Mark Morales

A nearly empty Times Square is seen on Monday, March 23, in New York City.
A nearly empty Times Square is seen on Monday, March 23, in New York City. Angela Weiss/AFP/Getty Images

New York City is now reporting at least 12,339 cases of coronavirus and 99 deaths.

There are at least 20,909 cases and at least 157 deaths in New York state.

3:37 p.m. ET, March 23, 2020

TikTok gives $10 million to coronavirus response

From CNN's Jacqueline Howard



The World Health Organization on Monday announced that its Covid-19 Solidarity Response Fund received a $10 million donation from TikTok, the popular app used to make short videos. 

WHO said that the contribution will be used to provide medical workers around the world with more tools to fight the coronavirus pandemic — including masks, gloves and personal protective equipment.

WHO also announced that it had received a $10 million contribution to its response fund from FIFA, the Federation International de Football Association.

The group's Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus thanked both organizations for their contributions.

"To date, the fund has raised more than $70 million, in just 10 days, from more than 187,000 individuals and organizations, to help health workers on the frontlines to do their life-saving work, treat patients and advance research for treatments and vaccines," he said.
3:35 p.m. ET, March 23, 2020

A 13-year-old girl died of coronavirus in Panama

From Stefano Pozzebon in Bogota and CNN's Jackie Castillo in Atlanta

Panama's health ministry confirmed Monday the death of 13-year-old girl due to coronavirus.

According to a statement from the ministry, the girl and a 92-year-old man are the latest patients to die from the virus.

Panama has reported at least 313 cases and three deaths as a result of the coronavirus outbreak, according to Johns Hopkins University.

3:33 p.m. ET, March 23, 2020

Toronto declares state of emergency

From CNN’s Paula Newton

An almost empty stretch of Bathurst Street seen in Toronto, Ontario, Canada on Saturday, March 21.
An almost empty stretch of Bathurst Street seen in Toronto, Ontario, Canada on Saturday, March 21. Creative Touch Imaging Ltd/NurPhoto via ZUMA Press

Toronto Mayor John Tory has declared a state of emergency in the city.

The decision came after he received advice Monday morning from Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health and the Office of Emergency Management.

The declaration of a municipal emergency is part of the city's ongoing efforts to stop the spread of Covid-19, and the mayor hopes to ensure the municipal government can continue to “act and respond quickly to the pandemic and any other events that arise in the weeks ahead," the city said in a statement.

3:22 p.m. ET, March 23, 2020

Zimbabwe closes all borders due to coronavirus concerns

From Columbus Mavhunga in Zimbabwe

In an address to the nation on Monday night, Zimbabwe’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa announced the closure of all borders except for returning residents and cargo effective immediately.

Mnangagwa also announced that all gatherings with more than 50 people will be banned.

He said bars, nightclubs, gyms and swimming pools will be closed in an effort to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus.

3:20 p.m. ET, March 23, 2020

 3 doctors die of coronavirus in France

From Barbara Wojazer in Paris and Lindsay Isaac in London

Three doctors who had contracted coronavirus have died, the French National Health Agency said in a statement on Monday.

The doctors were all from the Grand Est region in northeast France. The victims include a general practitioner in Moselle, an obstetrician-gynecologist in Mulhouse and another general practitioner in Colmar. 

On Sunday, France reported its first doctor had died of coronavirus.

In all, 490 medical staffers in the Parisian region have contracted coronavirus, a spokesperson for the Public Hospitals of Paris told CNN. The spokesperson added that 32% of them are doctors and 15% of them are nurses. Three of the patients are in intensive care.