March 25 coronavirus news

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4:03 p.m. ET, March 25, 2020

UK medical official says general public testing is not imminent

From CNN’s Mick Krever


England’s chief medical officer said a generally available Covid-19 test is not imminent.

"I do not think, and I want to be clear, that this something you will suddenly be ordering on the internet next week," Chris Whitty said at a Downing Street press conference, standing alongside Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

This contradicts testimony from another British official earlier today. The director of the National Infection Service for Public Health England told parliament that she "absolutely" believes that a test would be available to order on Amazon in a matter of days.

"We need to go through the evaluation, then the first critical uses, and then spread it out from that point of view," she said.

4:06 p.m. ET, March 25, 2020

WHO officials warn the world is facing a "significant shortage" of medical supplies

From CNN's Jacqueline Howard

Health workers handle a coronavirus test kit at a drive-through testing station in Stamford, Connecticut, on March 23.
Health workers handle a coronavirus test kit at a drive-through testing station in Stamford, Connecticut, on March 23. John Moore/Getty Images

World Health Organization officials warned during a news briefing in Geneva on Wednesday that globally there is a "significant shortage" of medical supplies, including personal protective gear or PPE.

This issue is something that officials said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus will be bringing up at the G20 summit on Thursday.

"We need to be clear: The world is facing a significant shortage of PPE for our frontline workers — including masks and gloves and gowns and face shields — and protecting our health care workers must be the top priority for use of this PPE," Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO infectious disease epidemiologist, said during Wednesday's briefing.

All elements of the supply chain appear to be under "extreme strain," Dr. Mike Ryan, WHO executive director of the health emergencies program, said during the briefing. 

"There are problems in the supply chain all along that chain. The simple issue is demand," Ryan said. "There are shortages of PPE, shortages of ventilators and other products for the medical response to Covid. We also have to avoid shortages in other medical supplies, as supply chains come under strain."

3:42 p.m. ET, March 25, 2020

Senate stimulus bill includes video conferencing for some court proceedings

From CNN's David Shortell

A draft spending bill obtained by CNN provides for federal judges to enable video conferencing in place of physical courtroom hearings in a number of cases, allowing for a scaling down of in-person interactions at certain stages of a trial.

The legislation also pours money into federal law enforcement agencies that are continuing their missions despite the growing pandemic. It would provide $55 million to the FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration, US Marshals Service, and federal prosecutors across the country. This is in part to provide IT and security updates needed for teleworking, according to a summary of the bill.

The federal Bureau of Prisons, which is responsible for more than 175,000 inmates across the country, will get $100 million. That will go toward the purchase of personal protective equipment and other medical equipment, overtime and cleaning, according to the summary.

Also, $850 million will go toward a signature DOJ grant that funnels money to state and local law enforcement agencies.

What the bill doesn't address: There isn't anything about a series of controversial proposals floated by the Justice Department last week that would further coordinate how federal judges are able to slow down the timelines that criminal cases proceed on – proposals that had rankled civil liberties advocates when they became public.

3:40 p.m. ET, March 25, 2020

Top health official says France will see "many bereaved families" as coronavirus death toll climbs 

From Ya Chun Wang and Benjamin Berteau in Paris

France's Director General of Health, Jérôme Salomon, has warned that France will see "many bereaved families" as the country continues to grapple with a climbing coronavirus death toll

At least 1,331 people have died so far.

"We will see many tragedies, many bereaved families. Doctors are admirable, they deserve all our admiration and our daily congratulations," Salomon said Wednesday.

"We are facing an unprecedented, severe and rapidly spreading epidemic...the wave of serious cases is already here," he added.

During his news briefing, Salomon confirmed that at least 25,233 people have so far tested positive for the virus — 2,933 more than Tuesday's total number of cases.

3:38 p.m. ET, March 25, 2020

WHO applauds Trump's commitment to fighting coronavirus

From CNN's Amanda Watts

World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus applauded President Trump for demonstrating commitment to fighting the coronavirus pandemic.

“Fighting this pandemic needs political commitment and commitment at the highest level possible — and the President’s commitment, you have already seen it," Tedros said Wednesday.

“As you know, one of the recommendations from WHO is the whole of government approach involving all sectors. And the principal, the head of state, taking responsibility and leading the whole response and that’s exactly what he is doing,” he added

Tedros continued: “I believe that kind of political commitment and political leadership can bring change or can stop this pandemic."

3:42 p.m. ET, March 25, 2020

Ocasio-Cortez warns she may force House members to return for stimulus vote, potentially delaying final passage

From CNN's Manu Raju

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the high-profile freshman from New York, is leaving open the option of forcing House members to return to Washington to cast a vote on the $2 trillion stimulus package barreling through Congress.

Ocasio-Cortez has expressed her frustration with reports of the stimulus deal, suggesting it's too tilted towards corporations. The deal was reached between senators from both parties -- including the senior Democratic senator from her state, Chuck Schumer, and the White House.

And on Wednesday, Ocasio-Cortez told CNN she is not ruling out asking for a recorded vote, which would force lawmakers to return to Washington and vote in-person, something that most members of Congress are eager to avoid amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Ocasio-Cortez said she hadn't seen the final bill text yet, "but I'm open" to asking for a recorded vote "if necessary."

Asked if she had concerns about forcing lawmakers to return, which would be an unpopular move, she said: "of course."

But she added: "With the health risks of travel, there is no easy choice here. But essential workers are showing up and putting their health at risk every day, and if the final text of a bill is set up to hurt them, it may be something we have to do."

The move would upset the plans of Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who told Democrats on a Wednesday conference call that she prefers that the Senate measure is adopted by the House by unanimous consent, according to a source on the call. Any member could object to unanimous approval.

Another option: Allowing the House to vote by voice, which would allow the presiding officer to determine which side has the most votes. Yet members can ask for a recorded, roll-call vote, which would force the House members vote in person.

Pelosi told her caucus on a conference call that a House vote would not occur Wednesday, according to a source on the call. And House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said he would give lawmakers 24 hours notice before scheduling a vote.

Pelosi also said she's in contact with the House physician's office about what precautions must be taken in case members are forced to return to Washington, a source on the call said.

A recorded vote could delay final passage for days.

3:35 p.m. ET, March 25, 2020

US defense secretary orders a 60-day freeze for overseas US troops

From CNN's Barbara Starr

Defense Secretary Mark Esper has signed an order requiring all military forces currently overseas, or scheduled to deploy overseas from the US, to stay in their current locations for the next 60 days, according to three defense officials.

The freeze-in-place order will affect 90,000 expected scheduled deployments, including both troops scheduled to return home and troops scheduled to be sent overseas.

There will be several exceptions, including for naval vessels scheduled to return to the US.

4:18 p.m. ET, March 25, 2020

Chicago will begin issuing citations to people who break shelter-in-place order

From CNN's Omar Jimenez

Chicago Police will be issuing citations to residents who do not abide by the rules for congregations and staying at home starting Thursday, Interim Chicago Police Superintendent Charlie Beck said.

“The educational phase of this is over,” Beck said Wednesday.

He said failure to follow orders could result in a misdemeanor, or arrest if the violation continues.

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said she is “concerned with what we have seen in recent days,” and is now threatening to shut down the city lakefront and parks.

3:23 p.m. ET, March 25, 2020

Coronavirus death toll in France climbs by more than 200 in 24 hours

From CNN's Ya Chun Wang in Paris 

A total of 1,331 people in France have died after contracting coronavirus, the French Director General of Health Jérôme Salomon said Tuesday during a news conference, marking an increase of 231 in just 24 hours. 

According to Salomon, a total of 25,233 people have so far tested positive for the virus — 2,933 more than Tuesday's confirmed total. Of these cases, 2,827 are currently being treated in intensive care.