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
201 Posts
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9:37 p.m. ET, March 26, 2020

Travel to Hawaii drops by 87% after new coronavirus restrictions

From CNN's Andy Rose

Earlier this week, Hawaii Governor David Ige asked people to postpone their visits to the state for 30 days, and most people are listening.

In a Thursday evening press conference, Ige said flights to Hawaii this week are down 87% compared to the same week in 2019.

"We must try to stop visitors from coming to Hawaii in order to stop the spread of Covid-19 into our communities,” Gov. Ige said

The state is backing up its request for fewer visitors with an order that all arrivals -- residents and visitors -- immediately enter a 14-day quarantine upon entering the state. Visitors must spend that time in their hotel room at their own expense, or face a possible criminal charge if they ignore the order.

“Only 38 total people flew into Kauai's airport (Thursday),” said Tim Sakahara with the state’s Department of Transportation. Arrivals are interviewed before being allowed to leave the airport, and must fill out a form giving details on where they will be spending their quarantine.

Gov. Ige says they are also working with the US Army Corps of Engineers to find places where a field hospital could be set up if one is necessary. A site survey already has been done at the exhibition hall of Hawaii Convention Center, according to Ige.

9:35 p.m. ET, March 26, 2020

China reports 55 new cases, all but one of which were imported

From journalist Yuli Yang in Singapore

China confirmed 55 new cases of the coronavirus Thursday, bringing the total number of active cases to 3,292. The majority of those, 2,896, are in Hubei province, where the virus was first detected late last year.

Of the new cases, all but one were imported, China's National Health Commission said.

Five more deaths were also recorded, all in Hubei province, four of which were in the provincial capital Wuhan. The country has recorded 3,292 deaths in total related to the virus.

China's national reported number of confirmed cases -- which includes both active cases and people who have recovered -- now stands at 81,340, behind the United States, which has now confirmed over 82,000 cases.

9:38 p.m. ET, March 26, 2020

US Environmental Protection Agency dialing back enforcement actions due to coronavirus

From CNN's Dan Berman

The Trump administration’s Environmental Protection Agency is indefinitely dialing back enforcement of regulations and fines for companies during the coronavirus pandemic.

The EPA announced the policy Thursday, citing worker shortages, social distancing needs and travel restrictions for both agency employees and contractors as a result of the pandemic.

"EPA is committed to protecting human health and the environment, but recognizes challenges resulting from efforts to protect workers and the public from Covid-19 may directly impact the ability of regulated facilities to meet all federal regulatory requirements," EPA administrator Andrew Wheeler said in a statement.

While pulling back from enforcement, EPA says it expects public water systems not to relax their standards.

"Public water systems have a heightened responsibility to protect public health because unsafe drinking water can lead to serious illnesses and access to clean water for drinking and handwashing is critical during the Covid-19 pandemic," the agency said in a memo.

Environmental groups, who have been fighting EPA pollution regulation rollbacks since Trump took office, objected to Thursday’s announcement.

"This is an open license to pollute. Plain and simple," said Gina McCarthy, EPA administrator under President Barack Obama and now president of the Natural Resources Defense Council.

The administration, McCarthy said, "is taking advantage of an unprecedented public health crisis to do favors for polluters that threaten public health."

The move, which is retroactive to March 13, "does not provide leniency for intentional criminal violations," EPA says, and doesn’t apply to Superfund and other hazardous and solid waste management.

9:30 p.m. ET, March 26, 2020

Spain asks European Council for concrete financial plan to tackle coronavirus crisis

From CNN's Tatiana Arias in Atlanta and Laura Perez Maestro in Madrid

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez has asked the European Council for a concrete financial plan to overcome the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The European Council is a collective body that helps to shape the European Union's overall priorities.

Sanchez demanded the council provide "a clear and compelling financial commitment to overcome the crisis," including "concrete proposals for medium and long-term financing," according to a statement from the Spanish government.

On Thursday, EU member states gathered on an extraordinary G20 video-conference on COVID-19 to discuss a shared front in dealing with the socio-economic impact of the pandemic.

Italy and Spain, however, refused to sign the EU's joint response to COVID-19 after they disagreed with the economic proposals put forward during Thursday's leadership summit, a spokesperson for the European Council told CNN.

"Spain and Italy had problems with the parts of the statement tackling social-economic consequences," the spokesperson said.

The EU agreed to come back with a new proposal in two weeks, according to the Spanish press note.

This week, Sanchez and eight other European leaders sent a letter to the President of the European Council, Charles Michel, explaining "the need to work on a common debt instrument issued by a European institution" to benefit all member states on the same basis with long-term finance policies to counteract the damage caused by the pandemic.

9:26 p.m. ET, March 26, 2020

Don't expect to get back to normal life by April, Bill Gates warns

If you're hoping to return to normal life, work, and social gatherings by April, be prepared to bunker down for a lot longer, warned Bill Gates at the ongoing CNN town hall on the coronavirus pandemic.

An April resuming of life is "not realistic. The numbers are still going up. That only happens after the numbers have peaked and are going down a lot and getting down to an absolute level," he said.

That's not to say we haven't made progress: Vaccine trials are underway, and with the right measures, these shutdowns and extreme restrictions could come to an end, he said.

But schools will likely stay closed for the rest of the school year, and "the light is not at the end of the tunnel in terms of a mid-April reopening," he added.

So far, not a single state has reached the crucial point where case numbers are plateauing and beginning to decrease -- meaning it is unlikely we have reached the peak yet.

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

Bill Gates calls the level of social isolation we're seeing "super painful" and a "top priority"

Bill Gates believes social distancing is crucially important in reducing the spread of coronavirus.

The Microsoft founder and philanthropist shared his thoughts about social isolation Thursday night during CNN's coronavirus town hall.

"It is super painful to drive this very high degree of social isolation I call shutdown. The middle course really isn't there because it's hard to say, oh, go back to the theater for a week maybe or maybe not you'll be infected or infecting people," Gates said.
"Until we get the certainty we've hit these low numbers, you know, I doubt even if you told people that they should be buying new houses and cars and hanging out in restaurants, I doubt they're going to want to do that. People want to protect older people."
9:18 p.m. ET, March 26, 2020

Bill Gates: "We have not peaked" and the US needs more lockdowns


Microsoft founder and philanthropist Bill Gates joined CNN's global town hall to speak about the coronavirus pandemic and what needs to be done.

He's been warning about the risks of a pandemic for years. Back in 2015, during a TED Talk, he warned that the greatest threat we face isn't nuclear war, but a pandemic.

Since then, he has called for more funding in pandemic preparation, vaccine and diagnostic development, and simulation training -- but "not much has happened."

"This is kind of the nightmare scenario," he said of the coronavirus pandemic.

Other countries have done better than the US: The countries hard hit by SARS in 2003, like those in Asia, "are the ones that have done best in this epidemic because they acted when the number of cases were still very, very small," Gates said.

The US response, in contrast, has been slow and chaotic, he added. We might be better off now if we had "behaved a little bit like the countries that have done the best on this one."

And it's not over yet. "We have not peaked," he warned, calling for more dramatic lockdowns to prevent further infections and deaths.

"Basically the whole country needs to do what was done in the part of China where they had these infections," he added.


9:03 p.m. ET, March 26, 2020

R. Kelly's lawyers want him released from prison due to coronavirus concerns

Antonio Perez/Pool/Getty Images/File
Antonio Perez/Pool/Getty Images/File

R. Kelly’s attorneys have filed a motion asking for the singer to be released on bond because, they argue, Kelly is within the group that the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has categorized as "most-at-risk for contracting COVID-19."

"The health risk to Mr. Kelly, because of his age and because of the multiple surgeries he has undergone -- including a recent surgery while incarcerated -- coupled with the conditions at the MCC (Metropolitan Correctional Center) as described below, necessitates his temporary release on bail until this pandemic has ended," his lawyers said in a statement.

Kelly’s lawyers say that if bond were granted, he would be placed on home incarceration and would be electronically monitored.

The singer is currently being detained at the Chicago MCC where he is awaiting trial for multiple sexual abuse charges.

8:58 p.m. ET, March 26, 2020

Here's how you should be washing your hands during the coronavirus pandemic

Getting underneath the finger nails is an important part of thorough hand-washing needed to stave off coronavirus, according to Dr. Sanjay Gupta who provided viewers a tutorial Thursday night during CNN's coronavirus town hall.

One of the other important details Gupta shared was making sure every wash lasts as long as it would take to sing the "Happy Birthday" song twice, he said.