March 26 coronavirus news

By Jessie Yeung, Joshua Berlinger, Adam Renton, Meg Wagner, Emma Reynolds and Mike Hayes, CNN

Updated 0252 GMT (1052 HKT) March 27, 2020
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10:08 a.m. ET, March 26, 2020

Ford aims to restart production at some North American plants

From CNN’s Peter Valdes-Dapena

An employee works on the line at the Ford Motor Co. Dearborn Truck Plant in Dearborn, Michigan, U.S., on Thursday, Sept. 27, 2018.
An employee works on the line at the Ford Motor Co. Dearborn Truck Plant in Dearborn, Michigan, U.S., on Thursday, Sept. 27, 2018. Sean Proctor/Bloomberg/Getty Images/FILE

Ford Motor announced on Thursday that it will restart production "at key North American plants."

According to a news release, the company will introduce additional safety measures to protect workers as they reopen as soon as April 6.

Some background: Last week, Ford announced that that all of its factories would close for two weeks in the face of the coronavirus outbreak.

In a statement following Ford’s announcement, the United Auto Workers union said that they are “reviewing with great concern and caution today’s announcement.”

Jim Cain, spokesperson for General Motors, tells CNN that the situation was still fluid and that GMdoesn’t have “firm return to work dates at this time,” according to a statement.

Vanessa Yurkevich contributed to this report

10:01 a.m. ET, March 26, 2020

US Treasury Secretary says unemployment numbers are "not relevant"

Drew Angerer/Getty Images/FILE
Drew Angerer/Getty Images/FILE

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin dismissed news of 3.28 million jobless claims this week, calling the numbers "not relevant" and touting the stimulus package passed last night by the Senate. 

"I just think these numbers right now are not relevant, and, you know, whether they’re bigger or smaller in the short term. Obviously there are people who have jobless claims, and again, the good thing about this bill is the President is protecting these people, so you know, now with these plans, small businesses, hopefully will be able to hire back a lot of those people. Last week they didn’t know if they had any protections, they didn’t have any cash, they had no choice," he said during a call-in appearance on CNBC. 

Mnuchin continued: "Now with this bill passed by Congress, there are protections. And as I said, hopefully these workers will be rehired, but between these three programs it protects all American workers. And by the way, you know, lots of big, big companies do continue to hire for obviously grocery stores, pharmacies, you know, delivery services. These companies are on overtime, so I know they are hiring people as fast as they can." 

10:11 a.m. ET, March 26, 2020

US stocks open higher despite the worst jobless claims data in history

From CNN’s Anneken Tappe

US stocks opened higher on Thursday despite the worst jobless claims data in history, suggesting the market had already priced in a shock to the US labor market.

The Department of Labor showed nearly 3.3 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits last week.

Here's how the markets opened:

  • The Dow opened up 1.3%, or 275 points.
  • The S&P 500 rose 1.1%.
  • The Nasdaq Composite kicked off 1.1% higher.

 All three indexes extended their gains in the first minutes of trading.

9:57 a.m. ET, March 26, 2020

280 US service members have tested positive for coronavirus

From CNN's Barbara Starr

As of Thursday morning, there are 280 US service members who have tested positive for Covid-19. This is an increase of 53 from 227 on Wednesday.  

There is now nearly 600 positive cases across the US Department of Defense.

9:58 a.m. ET, March 26, 2020

Mexico to suspend federal government work during coronavirus outbreak

From CNN's Natalie Gallón in Mexico City and Sharif Paget in Atlanta

Mexico will begin suspending non-essential federal government work on Thursday to help contain the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, according to Mexico’s Deputy Health Minister, Hugo López-Gatell Ramírez.

"The entire federal government suspends work and each head of the dependencies will determine who is essential to avoid jeopardizing the operation of the institutions," López-Gatell wrote on his Twitter page Wednesday evening.

In a second tweet, López-Gatell asked the private sector to work on strategies that would maximize the number of employees who can work from home. 

Mexico's death toll from the novel coronavirus sits at six with 475 confirmed cases, according to the government.

10:06 a.m. ET, March 26, 2020

Real Madrid's stadium to be used as warehouse for medical supplies to help combat coronavirus

External view of the Santiago Bernabeu stadium, which started a renovation project in 2019. taken on March 12.
External view of the Santiago Bernabeu stadium, which started a renovation project in 2019. taken on March 12. Gabriel Bouys/AFP/Getty Images

Spanish football giants Real Madrid announced on Thursday, that in collaboration with the National Sports Council, they are launching an initiative to temporarily use the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid as a warehouse to store and distribute medical supplies aimed at fighting Covid-19. 

The medical supplies, with the authority of the state government, will be delivered to the Spanish health authorities to develop the most optimal and efficient use of the supplies.

The Spanish club, in addition to making its home stadium available, will also be accepting donations that could be used by the health department. The distribution of these materials will be handled by the Ministry of Health to ensure that they are given to the hospitals that are most in need. 

The hope is that holding all of the materials in one place can facilitate the distribution process.  

9:31 a.m. ET, March 26, 2020

US Secretary of State: More than 10,000 Americans repatriated while coronavirus spreads

From CNN's Jennifer Hansler

Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP/Getty Images/FILE
Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP/Getty Images/FILE

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said today that the US has “now brought over 10,000 Americans back home from places where they were stranded through no fault of their own.”

“There’s still a lot of work to do. We’ve got a lot of people who are trying to get back this way, and with travel shut down in many of these countries without any notice or little notice, there’s still a major undertaking. But the team has martialed the resources. It’s an airlift back home like we’ve not seen in an awfully long time, and I’m really proud of the way our team has responded,” Pompeo told Hugh Hewitt on his radio show.

On Wednesday, the head of the repatriation task force at the State Department said they were tracking 50,000 Americans who may seek help in returning to the US.

9:11 a.m. ET, March 26, 2020

Coronavirus crisis has swept away a decade of economic expansion

A pedestrian walks by a 'closed' sign on the door of a restaurant on March 17, in San Francisco, California.
A pedestrian walks by a 'closed' sign on the door of a restaurant on March 17, in San Francisco, California. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

A record number of Americans filed for their first week of unemployment benefits last week, as businesses shut down to slow the spread of the coronavirus.  

Initial jobless claims soared to a seasonally adjusted 3.28 million in the week ended March 21, according to the Department of Labor. That is the highest number of initial jobless claims in history, since the Department of Labor started tracking the data in 1967.

Before coronavirus fears began affecting the US economy, it was powering ahead at historic rates.

The bottom line: This crisis has swept away the complacency of a decade of economic expansion and perpetually rising stock markets.

9:19 a.m. ET, March 26, 2020

Doctor describes what we can't see on TV: "The sickest patients are terrifying"

From CNN's Brian Stelter

Esther Choo, emergency physician and health care advocate
Esther Choo, emergency physician and health care advocate CNN

We see the daily counts of coronavirus cases and deaths, the long lines for tests, and the White House briefings where the President pretends the situation is not dire.

But we're not able to see inside the emergency rooms and intensive care units where this invisible demon is being fought.

We're not able to see the front lines. Or the full extent of the human suffering. We only hear about the battle through the testimonies of doctors and nurses; though the pleas of governors and mayors; and through interviews with patients who are well enough to call in via Skype.

Does this distort the public's understanding of the virus? Does the lack of visibility make it hard for some folks to process how serious this pandemic is? 

CNN asked Esther Choo, emergency physician and health care advocate who started the #GetMePPE hashtag last week.

Here's what she said via text:

"This whole thing has been hampered by its abstractness. I mean, half the interviews on TV that I've seen are totally well people pissed they didn't get tested." But they're not the real faces of this pandemic -- the hospitalized patients are. "The truth is, the sickest patients are terrifying," Choo said. "They are air hungry, dropping their oxygen, confused, distressed. We can never show that. But it is terrifying."

Choo put it this way:

"What would the zombie apocalypse be like if we only had verbal descriptions of zombies, but could never show them?"

HIPAA restrictions and media ethics issues both stand in the way of having cameras in hospital corridors. So this crisis challenges reporters to get creative.