March 24 coronavirus news

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1:22 p.m. ET, March 24, 2020

US has potential to be next epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic, WHO spokesperson says

From CNN's Jacqueline Howard

As coronavirus cases continue to rise in the United States, the nation has "potential" to become the next epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic, Margaret Harris, a spokesperson for the World Health Organization, said during a call with reporters on Tuesday. 

Harris was asked directly: "Do you see the United States going on to become the epicenter of this outbreak, overtaking Europe?"

In response Harris said, "We are now seeing a very large acceleration in the numbers of cases from the United States — so it does have that potential. We cannot say that that is the case yet, but it does have that potential."

Earlier in the call, Harris said that the majority of the world's latest Covid-19 cases have been in European countries and the United States.

"The main drivers of the outbreak remain Europe, but also the US. So 85% of cases that have been reported in the last 24 hours have come from the European region and the US," Harris said on Tuesday. 

"A lot of countries are now taking very strong measures to distance people, to really quarantine entire societies, and these have been shown to be an important way of slowing down this spread of the virus and buying some time," Harris said. "But to defeat the virus, to stop it, countries also need very aggressive targeted tactics, testing every suspected case, isolating and caring for every person known to be ill and also tracing and quarantining and finding every close contact."

WATCH DR. SANJAY GUPTA:

1:10 p.m. ET, March 24, 2020

Harvard's president tests positive for coronavirus

Lawrence Bacow, right, and his wife Adele Fleet Bacow leave Harvard Yard after his inauguration as the 29th President of Harvard University, Friday, October 5, 2018 in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Lawrence Bacow, right, and his wife Adele Fleet Bacow leave Harvard Yard after his inauguration as the 29th President of Harvard University, Friday, October 5, 2018 in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Chris Christo/The Boston Herald/AP/FILE

Harvard President Lawrence S. Bacow said he and his wife have tested positive for coronavirus.

"We started experiencing symptoms on Sunday—first coughs then fevers, chills, and muscle aches—and contacted our doctors on Monday. We were tested yesterday and just received the results a few minutes ago," he said in a statement to the Harvard community.

Bacow said he's not sure how he and his wife contracted the virus, but said "far fewer people crossed our paths recently than is usually the case" as they both began working from home on March 14.

"We will be taking the time we need to rest and recuperate during a two-week isolation at home," he added. "I am blessed with a great team, and many of my colleagues will be taking on more responsibility over the next few weeks as Adele and I focus on just getting healthy."

Earlier this month, Harvard announced it would be moving to online classes and asked students to move out of on campus housing.

1:02 p.m. ET, March 24, 2020

UK will open temporary hospital at London conference center

From CNN's Lindsay Isaac

An exhibitions and convention center in London will become a temporary hospital in order to meet the medical needs of coronavirus patients, the Health Secretary said today.

The ExCeL center, in east London, is expected to open next week as the NHS Nightingale with the “help of the military." It will consist of two wards with capacity for 2,000 patients.

“We will make sure we have the capacity so that everyone gets the support they need,” Matt Hancock said in a virtual news conference. 

Hancock said almost 12,000 former health staff have agreed to return to help out with the coronavirus crisis, including 2,600 doctors and 6,147 nurses.

 

1:00 p.m. ET, March 24, 2020

Japanese investment group donates 1.4 million respirator masks to New York

From CNN's Business

Hitoshi Yamada/NurPhoto via Getty Images/FILE
Hitoshi Yamada/NurPhoto via Getty Images/FILE

Japanese investment group Softbank announced on Tuesday that it is donating 1.4 million N95 respirator masks to New York state.

In an internal memo obtained by CNN, Marcelo Claure, COO of SoftBank, said the masks were for “those on the front lines testing, preventing, and treating the spread of this virus in New York, the current epicenter of the pandemic in the US.”

The company will also ship an additional 100,000 masks to several cities in Latin America, where he said help is desperately needed.

12:53 p.m. ET, March 24, 2020

Pennsylvania sees a spike of 200 cases overnight

From CNN’s Liz Stark

Pennsylvania saw a spike of over 200 cases overnight, bringing the total to 851 cases statewide, according to the state's Department of Health.

At least seven people have died from coronavirus in the state.

12:48 p.m. ET, March 24, 2020

Brazil's president accuses media and governors of trying to "trick" citizens on severity of coronavirus

CNN Brasil
CNN Brasil

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro defended the measures he's been taking to fight the coronavirus in his country and claimed the mainstream media and some governors are trying to "trick" the population into believing the pandemic is worse.

During a Sunday interview with CNN affiliate Record TV, Bolsonaro said "the people will soon know they have been tricked by those governors and the mainstream media" and said extreme measures, like lockdowns, could lead to a rise in unemployment.

The comments came after Bolsonaro faced several nights of protests in Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, where people banged pots and pans from their windows.

Sao Paulo, Brazil's most populous state and the most affected by the coronavirus, went into lockdown Tuesday, forcing nonessential businesses to shut down for 15 days and limiting restaurants to delivery service.

12:37 p.m. ET, March 24, 2020

It could take 90 days to get through the coronavirus crisis in the US

From CNN's Mike Conte and Ryan Browne

Gen. Mark Milley
Gen. Mark Milley Department of Defense

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff suggested that the models show the country would “get through” the coronavirus crisis “probably late May, June, something in that range. Maybe could be as late as July.”

“There are a variety of models. There’s best case, worst case, something in the middle. Based on what we’ve already said, you’re looking at somewhere around 90 days based on some of the other countries. That may or may not apply to the United States,” said Gen. Mark Milley during a broadcast town hall for US service members to discuss the coronavirus.

12:36 p.m. ET, March 24, 2020

New York governor: "We’re not going to put a dollar figure on a human life"

From CNN's Adrienne Vogt

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo pushed back against comments by President Trump that he could reopen the US economy while keeping an eye on some of the most at-risk populations, including seniors.

“My mother is not expendable. And your mother is not expendable. And our brothers and sisters are not expendable,” Cuomo said. “And we're not going to accept a premise that human life is disposable. And we're not going to put a dollar figure on human life.”

Cuomo said saving lives is most important, but there can be an “intelligent” strategy for getting people back to work.

Some more background: Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, 70, said Monday that he is "all in" on lifting social distancing guidelines in order to help the economy.

“Let's be smart about it, and those of us who are 70+, we'll take care of ourselves. But don't sacrifice the country,” he said.

His suggestion directly contradicts recommendations put forth by government agencies and experts. 

Watch more from Cuomo:

12:29 p.m. ET, March 24, 2020

The UK government is texting stay at home rules to to people

The British government has texted the guidelines for the stay at home order issued last night by the Prime Minister over coronavirus. 

The text emphasizes that people need to stay at home unless they are going out for the following reasons:  

  • If they need food
  • For health reasons
  • For work, but only when they absolutely cannot work from home

The text also urges people to stay 2 meters (or 6 feet) away from other people and wash their hands as soon as you get home.

Anyone can spread the virus, the text warns.