March 15 coronavirus news

By Jessie Yeung, Jenni Marsh, Ivana Kottasová and Amir Vera, CNN

Updated 0222 GMT (1022 HKT) March 16, 2020
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6:34 p.m. ET, March 15, 2020

All New York City hospitals will be required to cancel elective surgeries, mayor says

From CNN's Laura Ly

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said Sunday that he would sign an executive order on Monday requiring all hospitals in the city to cancel elective surgeries in the coming days.

De Blasio said his power to do so exists under New York's state of emergency and that his executive order would be worded carefully to allow some flexibility to close out some existing elective surgeries, but that all elective surgeries would cease soon.

6:40 p.m. ET, March 15, 2020

Starbucks switching to a 'to go' model in US and Canadian stores

From CNN’s Richard Davis 

A person places an order at a Starbucks coffee shop in downtown Seattle on March 10.
A person places an order at a Starbucks coffee shop in downtown Seattle on March 10. John Moore/Getty Images

Starbucks announced on Sunday that its US and Canadian stores will move to a “to go” model for at least two weeks to help contain the coronavirus, according to a company news release.

The coffee retail giant said the latest move was intended to encourage social distancing. 

“As we all know, the situation with COVID-19 is extremely dynamic and we will continue to review the facts and science and make the proactive decisions necessary to protect our partners, customers and communities,” wrote Rossann Williams, an executive vice president and head of US retail operations for the coffee chain.

Starbucks said there would be temporary closures in stores with high-social gatherings as well as in communities with high clusters of coronavirus cases.

6:35 p.m. ET, March 15, 2020

Vice President Pence says more than 2,000 labs will have high-speed testing capability by Monday

From CNN's Nicky Robertson and Jason Hoffman

Vice President Mike Pence speaks to the media during a press briefing at the White House on March 15.
Vice President Mike Pence speaks to the media during a press briefing at the White House on March 15. Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

During a White House briefing Sunday, Vice President Mike Pence announced that “more than 2,000 labs” will have high-speed testing capacity by Monday.

Since the declaration of a national state of emergency, Pence said federal public health services have worked with the Federal Emergency Management Agency and "have reached out to all 50 states to create a process that will enable all Americans who need to be tested to go to a community-based testing site outside of usual health care facilities." 

Pence noted these tests will be focused on those "most in need."

Adm. Brett Giroir with the US Public Health Service outlined how new coronavirus testing will be rolled out. He said there would be 1.9 million tests available this week across the 2,000 labs. Giroir also emphasized that the priority would be placed on those most vulnerable.

Giroir added that there wouldn’t be undue stress put on the acute health care system, meaning emergency rooms or urgent care.

 

6:17 p.m. ET, March 15, 2020

Pope walks through Rome's empty streets and prays for an 'end to the pandemic'

From CNN’s Nicola Ruotolo, Livia Borghese and Valentina Di Donato

Pope Francis walks down an empty street in the Rome on March 15.
Pope Francis walks down an empty street in the Rome on March 15. Vatican Media/AFP/Getty Images

Pope Francis left the Vatican on Sunday to walk through Rome’s empty streets to pray for an "end to the pandemic," according to a Vatican news release.

During his walk the Pope visited "two important pilgrimage sites in Rome to pray for the city and the world," the release said.

The first site is the ancient icon of Maria Salus Populi Romani at the Basilica of St. Mary Major, and the other at the foot of a wooden crucifix that protected Rome from a great plague.

Earlier in the day, the Pope gave his weekly blessing to an eerily empty St. Peter's Square as Italy remains on lockdown.

The Vatican released photos and video showing Pope Francis walking in a desolate Via del Corso. One of the main streets in the historic center of Rome, Via del Corso is normally packed with tourists. 

6:05 p.m. ET, March 15, 2020

New York City public schools will close Monday until at least April 20, mayor says

From CNN’s Laura Ly 

In a decision he described as "extraordinarily painful," New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said Sunday that he is closing the city's public schools on Monday until at least April 20.

The mayor said the city would make every attempt to reopen schools at that point, but that it’s possible schools could remain closed for the rest of the school year.

As part of the school closings, de Blasio announced the following:

  • Remote learning will begin on March 23
  • There will be special sites created for children of crucial health care workers and first responders
  • The city is working to supply technology to children who need it
  • The city is working to provide meals to children who depend on school breakfasts and lunches. This week, schools will be open for grab-and-go meals.
6:04 p.m. ET, March 15, 2020

Public schools in New York City and three surrounding counties will close this week, state governor says

From CNN's Laura Ly

Public schools in New York City and Nassau, Suffolk and Westchester counties will close this week to limit the spread of coronavirus, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced in a news release Sunday.

The exterior of P.S.175 Henry H. Garnet in Harlem, New York, on March 14.
The exterior of P.S.175 Henry H. Garnet in Harlem, New York, on March 14. Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images

Schools in Nassau, Suffolk and Westchester counties will close for two weeks beginning on Monday, Cuomo said. Nassau and Suffolk counties are on Long Island while Westchester County is just north of New York City.

New York City officials must develop a plan within the next 24 hours to ensure schoolchildren who rely on school meals will continue to receive them. Parents, especially those who are health care workers or first responders, will be provided access to childcare as needed, Cuomo said.

5:53 p.m. ET, March 15, 2020

South Carolina closes all public schools

From CNN's Shawn Nottingham

South Carolina will close all public schools due to the coronavirus outbreak until the end of March, according to an executive order by Gov. Henry McMaster.

McMaster made the announcement at an afternoon news conference.

5:42 p.m. ET, March 15, 2020

First lady: 'Social distancing at this time is very important'

From CNN's Kate Bennett

First Lady Melania Trump tweeted about social distancing Sunday:

5:45 p.m. ET, March 15, 2020

California to close bars, nightclubs and wineries

From CNN's Stella Chan

All California bars, nightclubs, wineries and brew pubs will be closed because they are "a non-essential function," state Gov. Gavin Newsom said during a press conference Sunday.

Restaurant capacities must be reduced by half to practice social distancing, Newsom said.