March 25 coronavirus news

By Helen Regan, Joshua Berlinger, Adam Renton, Ivana Kottasová and Meg Wagner, CNN

Updated 9:34 p.m. ET, March 25, 2020
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7:45 p.m. ET, March 25, 2020

New York City hospital sets up makeshift morgues to prepare for coronavirus deaths

From CNN’s Brynn Gingras, Elizabeth Joseph, Priscilla Alvarez and Mark Morales

Workers and military personnel build a makeshift morgue outside of Bellevue Hospital on March 25
Workers and military personnel build a makeshift morgue outside of Bellevue Hospital on March 25 Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Getty Images

At New York City’s Bellevue Hospital, a makeshift morgue including tents and refrigerated trucks is being set up in preparation for what may be a surge in the need for autopsies.

"We're in a public health crisis, and the city has declared a state of emergency. As part of that declaration, agencies like OCME have enacted emergency contingency plans to help prepare for every possible outcome,” New York City’s Office of the Chief Medical Examiner said in a statement to CNN.

A similar plan was utilized after September 11 attacks. 

The Federal Emergency Management Agency said it has a request from New York and other states for assistance in mortuary operations. 

“FEMA’s National Response Coordination Center (NRCC) has received requests for HHS Disaster Mortuary Operational Response Teams (DMORT) from the States of Hawaii, New York, and North Carolina. These requests are currently in the review and approval process,” a FEMA spokesperson told CNN. 

New York City has longstanding contracts with companies to also provide refrigerated trucks to store bodies, but that plan has not been put in to effect just yet. If and when it is, those trucks would likely be stationed at various locations including makeshift hospitals such as the Javits Center.

CNN's Elizabeth Hartfield contributed to this report.

8:35 p.m. ET, March 25, 2020

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says it's important to "recognize the good" in the stimulus package

From CNN's Paul LeBlanc

Alex Wong/Getty Images
Alex Wong/Getty Images

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told House Democrats that it's important to "recognize the good" in the $2 trillion stimulus package that's aimed at providing a jolt to an economy struggling due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The legislation, if it passes Congress, would be the largest emergency aid package in US history. Pelosi appeared on Wednesday to be sending a message to progressives in her caucus who are criticizing the bill.

"What is important is for us to recognize the good that is in the bill, appreciate it for what it does. Don't judge it for what it doesn't because we have more bills to come," the California Democrat told CNN's Wolf Blitzer on "The Situation Room."

"At the start of all this we had two bills, which were about emergencies ... and the emergency isn't over, but the focus was on those two bills. Now we're mitigating for the damage of it all to the health and to the livelihood of the American people. That is in this bill. And then we will go forward for recovery. Emergency, mitigation, recovery," she said.


8:26 p.m. ET, March 25, 2020

US hotels were mostly empty last week, new data shows

From CNN's Aaron Cooper

Alex Menendez/Getty Images
Alex Menendez/Getty Images

New data shows nearly 70% of the hotel rooms in the United States were vacant last week, according to data and analytics group STR. 

That national occupancy rate is a 56% decline from the same week last year. The average occupied room cost is about $93, also down from last year. 

The San Francisco area and New York recorded the worst declines, with less than 17% of hotel rooms in both cities occupied, according to STR. That represents an 80% decrease from this time last year.

Many hotels across the country have closed entirely. One example, The Boston Harbor Hotel, a luxury property in downtown Boston, closed last Saturday, according to its website, and hopes to reopen May 18.

8:29 p.m. ET, March 25, 2020

The future of Wimbledon tennis tournament remains in question

From CNN's Jill Martin

An aerial photograph of the No.1 court at the All England Lawn Tennis Club.
An aerial photograph of the No.1 court at the All England Lawn Tennis Club. David Goddard/Getty Images

An emergency meeting of the All England Lawn Tennis Club Main Board (AELTC) is scheduled for next week to discuss the future of Wimbledon, the group announced in a statement on Wednesday.

Playing the event behind closed doors has been ruled out, and “postponement is not without significant risk and difficulty” because of the grass surface used, according to the statement.

Wimbledon is current scheduled to begin June 29.

7:16 p.m. ET, March 25, 2020

Coronavirus case numbers are "artificially low" due to lack of testing, Los Angeles nurse says

From CNN's Julia Jones 

Elissa Rill, an emergency room nurse at the Northridge Hospital Medical Center in South California, told CNN she believes the number of reported cases in the Los Angeles area is "artificially low" due to lack of testing.

"I have no doubt that we have sent home hundreds of probable people that have corona, but we just don't have the resources to be able to test everyone," Rill said, describing what she is seeing in her emergency room.

According to Rill, the two Covid-19 testing options are Los Angeles County Health and Quest Diagnosis, which are both taking about eight to 10 days to turn around a test result in her area.

"A lot of people that come to the ER just want to get swabs, and unless they have active symptoms, they don't, because there's just not enough test kits," Rill said. "Right now we're so backed up that we just, it's impossible to just test everyone."

Northridge Hospital, which is in Los Angeles County, has at most 30 ventilators for the entire hospital, Rill said, and most of them are already in use in the 24-bed Intensive Care Unit. Despite having an overflow ICU with capacity for eight more beds, there are not enough ventilators for every ICU bed, let alone other areas of the hospital that might need to use ventilators.

"I'm like literally in fear of what's going to happen next," she said.
7:10 p.m. ET, March 25, 2020

Top US health official: DIY masks are only necessary in "desperate situations"

From CNN's Betsy Klein 

Dr. Anthony Fauci was asked Wednesday about reports of people around the country working to sew DIY masks and whether that was safe or effective.

“You would only recommend that under desperate situations if you don’t have any masks. But what we’re seeing now is, as you’ve heard has occurred, is a rather significant inflow of masks that are coming in, that are going to be available,” Fauci said.

Fauci continued: “I mean, obviously, if you don’t have a mask and you need a mask and it’s appropriate for you then wear it, you do what you can. But I don’t see that now as a necessity given what’s going on right now.

8:31 p.m. ET, March 25, 2020

US health expert shares a cautionary tale to reinforce social distancing guidelines

From CNN's Betsy Klein 

Alex Brandon/AP
Alex Brandon/AP

Dr. Deborah Birx came to the White House podium Wednesday with a personal story meant to express a dire warning to Americans shirking social distancing guidelines.

Birx said that her grandmother lived with the guilt of infecting her mother during the pandemic of 1918.

“It’s important to me personally because my grandmother, for 88 years, lived with the fact that she was the one, at age 11, who brought home the flu to her mother, Leah, for which I am named, when her mother had just delivered and her mother was succumbed to the great 1918 flu. She never forgot that she was the child that was in school that innocently brought that flu home,” she said.

Birx continued: “This is why we keep saying to every American: You have a role to protect each and every person that you interact with and we have a role to protect one another. It’s why we are social distancing, why you are social distancing, but to every American out there: when you are protecting yourself, you are protecting others. And if you, inadvertently, I know, brought this virus home to someone with a preexisting condition, I can tell you my grandmother lived with that for 88 years… This is not a theoretic, this is a reality, you can see the number of deaths that are occurring.”

Birx is the response coordinator for the White House Coronavirus Task Force. 

7:03 p.m. ET, March 25, 2020

Filming stops on "The Batman" movie due to coronavirus pandemic

From CNN's Dave Alsup

Director Matt Reeves tweeted Wednesday that filming has ceased on the upcoming "The Batman" movie.  

"Yes, we have shut down til it is safe for all to resume...Everyone safe for the moment, thank you for asking, and stay safe too...," Reeves said in response to an online question.

"The Batman" was set for release in 2021. (Warner Bros. Pictures, the studio behind the film, is, like CNN, owned by WarnerMedia.)

Actor Robert Pattinson took over the role of Batman from Ben Affleck, who played the masked hero in 2016's "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice."

8:33 p.m. ET, March 25, 2020

Trump explains why he agreed to government funding of Kennedy Center in stimulus bill

From CNN's Betsy Klein 

Drew Angerer/Getty Images
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

President Trump addressed a provision in the stimulus bill that gives $25 million to the Kennedy Center, a performing arts space in Washington, DC, named for the late President John F. Kennedy.

Trump said it was a provision from the Democrats that initially started at $35 million, but they negotiated to $25 million, saying he approved it because he is a “fan” of the facility.

“I approved that, it was 35 million, and we actually took off 10. But I’m a fan of that although I haven’t spent time there because I’m far too busy. I’d love to go there, evenings, but I’m too busy doing things because that’s more important for me than going there,” the President said.

The Kennedy Center, he said, “has suffered greatly because nobody can go there, it’s essentially closed.”

Trump also praised Democratic negotiators. 

“And they do need some funding, and I said, look, that was a Democrat request, that was not my request, but you gotta give them something. It’s something that they wanted, you know, works that way. The Democrats have treated us fairly. I really believe we’ve had a very good back and forth. And I say that with respect to Chuck Schumer, I spoke to him a number of times, but you know, they had requests also. So that was a request,” Trump said.

Even though the funding is a “lousy soundbite,” Trump was resigned to it.

“That’s not a good soundbite but that’s the way life works. With that being said, the Kennedy Center, they do a beautiful job, an incredible job, David Rubenstein does a fantastic job, he’s very much involved and puts up a lot of money and does things a lot of people wouldn’t be able to do. But they’ve been essentially closed. They have tremendous deficits that are built up, I mean, this thing has been devastating to it. So I didn’t have problem with it but this was a request from the Democrats because of the fact that they have a facility that’s essentially closed,” he said, later adding that he’d “love” to go see Romeo and Juliet, but he can’t because it’s closed.  

Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr., lambasted funding for the arts included in the bill last night, tweeting, “Republicans want to save your job, Democrats want to save the Picassos.”