March 24 coronavirus news

By Jessie Yeung, Helen Regan, Adam Renton, Emma Reynolds, Mike Hayes and Meg Wagner, CNN

Updated 1:09 p.m. ET, March 25, 2020
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7:49 p.m. ET, March 24, 2020

Alabama NICU nurse tests positive for coronavirus. Now a baby is in isolation.

From CNN's Pamela Kirkland

Courtesy Waltman Family
Courtesy Waltman Family

Brandon Waltman went to visit his newborn baby girl in the neonatal intensive care unit of an Alabama hospital Monday night. His daughter Emmarie Grace Waltman has been in NICU at the University of South Alabama Women’s Hospital for the past month, but last night, he was told she had been moved to a different part of the hospital.

Waltman said he was told Emmarie was taken to a different room because a nurse tested positive for coronavirus and is being isolated as a precaution. After watching the news about the spread of the virus over the last few weeks, Waltman said he wasn’t surprised.

“I felt like it was inevitable,” he told CNN. Born February 20, Emmarie was in the NICU for issues associated with feeding, her father said.

Now he and his wife can only visit Emmarie one at a time in a low pressure room in order to prevent any potential spread of coronavirus.

"It's rough. But today is about pushing so some of this doesn't happen again to her or God forbid anybody else," he told CNN

Gary Mans, an associate vice president for Marketing and Communications at USA Health, said in a statement that a staff member within the health system had tested positive, but declined to say in which department. 

Waltman said he is anxious to get his daughter home to Mississippi to quarantine together as a family, but he isn’t sure when Emmarie will be released. The family’s home is about an hour away from the hospital.

He said his daughter isn’t showing any symptoms of Covid-19 and he hopes it’ll stay that way.

“I don't think she's going to test positive,” he said. “She's one of the, probably the biggest and the healthiest babies in the NICU.”

7:44 p.m. ET, March 24, 2020

London mayor says tube services running at a maximum despite government criticism

From CNN's Nada Bashir

Yui Mok/PA Images/Getty Images
Yui Mok/PA Images/Getty Images

London's Mayor Sadiq Khan has hit back at government criticism over the capital's tube network running a reduced service amid the Covid-19 outbreak, telling local news outlets that Transport for London (TFL) is operating the maximum number of tube services it can, while maintaining safety. 

"We’re running the maximum tubes we can, as safely as we can. That roughly means that there are 55% of the tubes running," Khan said Tuesday in an interview with Channel 4 News. 

The London's mayor's remarks come after images of London's tube services circulated Tuesday morning depicting crowded trains, despite the virtual lockdown imposed by the government on Monday. 

"The good news is that we’ve seen about an 85% reduction in the number of passengers. The concern is that too many people aren’t following the rules and the instructions, which is to stay at home," Khan added.

Earlier on Tuesday, UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock criticized Transport for London's decision to run a reduced service, suggesting that an increase in the number of tubes running would allow members of the public to adhere to the government's social-distancing guidelines, while traveling on the underground network.

"TFL should have the tube running in full so that people travelling on the tube can be spaced out and further apart, obeying the two metre rule as best possible," Hancock said during the government's daily COVID-19 press briefing. 

"There is no good reason in the information that I've seen that the current levels of tube provision should be as low as they are. We should have more tube trains running," the Health Secretary added. 

Speaking to BBC London, Khan denounced the "blame game being played" by Hancock, highlighting the "heroic" work being carried out by TFL staff, and the pressure placed on TFL by the number of staff members who are off work.

"About a third of TFL staff are off work, mainly because of themselves having COVID-19, or members of their family having the symptoms, which means they are self-isolating...TFL are running the maximum service they’re able to do safely, with the number of staff that they have got," Khan asserted. 

7:07 p.m. ET, March 24, 2020

US senators are having to step in to get their states the supplies they need

From CNN's Lauren Fox 

As states compete for valuable medical resources like testing kits, face masks and ventilators, some are turning to their senators to help with supply shortages.

Behind the scenes, lawmakers are overwhelmed by the stories they are hearing back home, and stepping in to troubleshoot. Senators are relying on their closer relationships with the White House and federal officials to get states what they need. 

Sen. Tina Smith, a Democrat from Minnesota, recounted that in her state, the public health department had been approved to receive more than 55,000 N95 masks, nearly 122,000 surgical masks, 23,145 face shields, more than 18,000 gowns and more than 67,000 gloves from the strategic stockpile. But when health officials opened up their shipment Friday, they saw just 657 pairs of gloves.

They called her office.

“That is kind of frightening when we are seeing the kind of upsurge in cases we are seeing,” Smith said in a phone interview with CNN Tuesday. “I worry that states are competing.” 

For the rest of the weekend, Smith and her staff were on the phone with Department of Health and Human Services, troubleshooting with the governor’s office and trying to understand what had gone wrong.

Just days later, after the weekend calls, Minnesota public health officials received another shipment that contained the items they had been approved for. But, Smith said public health officials in her state still warn it’s not likely to be enough for the long haul. She also said that her state still has not received a single ventilator from the stockpile. Other hotspots like New York, California and Washington continue to be top priorities as the government seeks to slow to spread of Covid-19 there.

Smith says she doesn’t blame career officials at HHS or the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

“I feel like the career staff are trying their hardest. I don’t blame them,” she said. “It feels as if the administration’s response is haphazard… I cannot help but think that if they had started to prepare for this in early February…we would have been in a better spot…”

It’s not just places like Minnesota that state officials are asking senators with closer ties to the federal government to help. 

In South Dakota, Sen. John Thune, the second-ranking Republican in the Senate, stepped in to try and help his state. According to an aide familiar, Thune helped South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem lean on both the White House and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last week when the state needed more reagents required to complete the Covid-19 tests.

 

 

7:09 p.m. ET, March 24, 2020

White House press secretary tested negative for coronavirus

From CNN's Jim Acosta and Betsy Klein

White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham listens during a meeting in the Oval Office on March 12.
White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham listens during a meeting in the Oval Office on March 12. Al Drago/Bloomberg/Getty Images

White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham, who has been quarantined since coming in contact with Brazilian officials almost two weeks ago and has been working from home, has received negative Covid-19 test results and will be back to work Wednesday, deputy White House press secretary Judd Deere told reporters tonight. 

Fabio Wajngarten, the press secretary for Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro, tested positive for coronavirus earlier this month.

Wajngarten was with Bolsonaro on a US trip earlier this month, during which the Brazilian president dined with President Trump at Mar-a-Lago.

1:09 p.m. ET, March 25, 2020

California mayor says he got coronavirus after attending a party at Trump's L.A. golf course

From CNN's Cheri Mossburg

Rancho Palos Verdes, California, Mayor John Cruikshank said he contracted coronavirus after attending a birthday party at Trump National Golf Club Los Angeles.

The disco-themed birthday party, held on March 8, was for former Rancho Palos Verdes Mayor Susan Brooks, who is also positive for the virus, according to a statement from the city of Rancho Palos Verdes. Other guests at the party, which was attended by several current and former city officials, have also contracted the virus, according to the statement.

Cruikshank’s wife has not tested positive for the virus, according to city spokesperson Megan Barnes.

City employees, including the mayor pro tem, are self-quarantined out of an abundance of caution. City Hall has been closed since March 14 and is undergoing a deep cleaning, per a directive from City Manager Ara Mihranian.

The Trump National Golf Club Los Angeles is closed until further notice, a club representative told CNN on Friday.

A spokesperson for the Trump Organization did not immediately respond to a request for comment, nor did former mayor Susan Brooks.

CORRECTION: This post has been updated to reflect that Mayor John Cruikshank contracted coronavirus. His wife has not tested positive for the virus, according to a city spokesperson.

7:05 p.m. ET, March 24, 2020

WeWork offers bonuses of $100 per day to employees coming into work during coronavirus outbreak

From CNN's Sara Ashley O'Brien

 Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
 Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

WeWork, the coworking space provider, said it has an obligation to stay open for its members who are working on essential businesses. And while it has implemented a work from home policy for all of its employees, building staffers or “community” team members, will be given bonuses of $100 per day should they choose to come to work. 

“We are preparing to hire third-parties as needed to keep our buildings open. But we will first give WeWork employees the option to come to work. This is an individual choice – and has no bearing on your status at WeWork," according to a memo from WeWork executive chairman Marcelo Claure and WeWork CEO Sandeep Mathrani provided to CNN Business.

"This will go into effect immediately and we will reevaluate this policy again by March 31st,” the memo said.

6:52 p.m. ET, March 24, 2020

TSA officer in Seattle tests positive for coronavirus

From CNN's Andy Rose

A Transportation Security Administration officer at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport has tested positive for coronavirus, according to a statement from the airport.

The officer was last on duty at the airport the morning of March 21, according to the airport. The checkpoint where the agent worked is now closed for cleaning.

At least two dozen TSA screeners around the country have tested positive for Covid-19, according to a count maintained by the agency.

6:45 p.m. ET, March 24, 2020

Two infants in San Diego test positive for coronavirus

From CNN's Alexandra Meeks

Two infants in San Diego have tested positive for coronavirus, Public Health Officer Dr. Wilma Wooten announced at a news conference Tuesday.

This is the first time San Diego County has reported cases of infants less than one year of age, Wooten confirmed.

"Things are likely to get worse before they get better," Wooten said. "We do not believe the local wave of COVID-19 cases has crested yet."
6:55 p.m. ET, March 24, 2020

Liberty University lets 1,900 students return to campus during the coronavirus outbreak

From CNN's Konstantin Toropin and Christina Zdanowicz

Students mingle on the campus lawn at Liberty University in 2018.
Students mingle on the campus lawn at Liberty University in 2018. Andrew Lichtenstein/Corbis/Getty Images

About 1,900 students returned to Liberty University, a private evangelical Christian university, in Lynchburg, Virginia, a spokesperson confirmed to CNN on Tuesday.

Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. and other leaders discussed whether to extend spring break and "risk students having a longer time to become exposed to the virus," the school said in a statement. It decided it was safer to bring the students back to campus.

"During Spring Break, Falwell and his executive leadership team began meeting every afternoon to determine the measures that needed to be taken for all programs to go online and for students to be able to return to their dorms and use the campus dining services that they paid for," the statement said.

Falwell's decision to bring students back to campus flies against the guidance provided by state officials and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam issued a statewide order Monday to help slow down the spread of coronavirus. The order bans gatherings of more than 10 people and goes into effect just before midnight on Tuesday.

The order also closes nonessential businesses and shuts down all K-12 schools for the rest of the academic year.