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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12:43 a.m. ET, March 15, 2020

Walmart shortens its hours as stores across America close their doors

From CNN's Nathaniel Meyersohn

As the coronavirus crisis hurts America's retail industry many stores are shutting their doors or reducing their hours.

Walmart, the largest retailer in the nation, is shortening its opening hours in all 4,700 locations, to 6 a.m. until 11 p.m.

The shortened hours will help employees restock shelves overnight and clean stores.

Other US grocery stores, including Publix, Giant, Stop & Shop and H-E-B have also modified their hours in recent days.

Late Saturday, Urban Outfitters said it will close all of stores worldwide until at least March 28.

Patagonia, Glossier and Neighborhood Goods have also announced their stores will temporarily close.

12:24 a.m. ET, March 15, 2020

All travelers entering Australia will need to self-quarantine for 14 days, announces Prime Minister

From CNN’s Chermaine Lee in Hong Kong

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison at a press conference on Friday in Sydney.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison at a press conference on Friday in Sydney. Credit: Brook Mitchell/Getty Images

All people arriving in Australia after midnight Monday local time will need to self-quarantine for 14 days, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced today at a news conference.

There is no plan for mass school closures at this point, but the cabinet might discuss this issue further on Friday, Morrison said.

He also announced a ban on all cruise ships docking in Australia.

Earlier this week, the Morrison government advised the cancelation of all gatherings of more than 500 people, leading to the postponement of many sports events, such as the Formula One Australian Grand Prix.

Australia has recorded 249 coronavirus cases and three deaths.

The new quarantine measures echo those announced yesterday in New Zealand; Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said all arriving travelers, including New Zealand citizens and residents, would face a 14-day mandatory quarantine. The only exemption is for those from the Pacific Islands.

12:08 a.m. ET, March 15, 2020

Beijing is pushing traditional medicine as a "Chinese solution" to coronavirus. Not everyone is happy about that

From CNN's Nectar Gan and Yong Xiong

Man measuring ingredients in traditional Asian apothecary.
Man measuring ingredients in traditional Asian apothecary. Credit: Shutterstock

Xiong Qingzhen, a drone engineer in the central Chinese metropolis of Wuhan, spent more than two weeks in a makeshift hospital in February receiving treatment for the coronavirus.

Twice a day, the 38-year-old was handed a bag of brown soup -- a traditional Chinese remedy blended from over 20 herbs, including ephedra, cinnamon twigs and licorice root.

But unlike most patients, Xiong was skeptical of its efficacy and refused to drink it.

"In my opinion, it is a sheer placebo," said, Xiong, who was discharged in late February from the makeshift hospital run by TCM doctors where no Western medicine was provided, apart from medication for underlying conditions, such as high blood pressure.

The "lung-clearing and detoxing soup," as the herbal compound he was given is called, was part of the Chinese government's push to use Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) in the fight against the novel coronavirus outbreak.

As of late last month, more than 85% of all coronavirus patients in China -- about 60,000 people -- had received herbal remedies alongside antiviral drugs, according to the Ministry of Science and Technology.

But even in China, where TCM has a large number of adherents, the government has been unable to quell its skeptics -- like Xiong. Abroad, the herbal remedies could face skepticism from Western experts, who have questioned their safety and effectiveness.

Read the full story here:

11:57 p.m. ET, March 14, 2020

Google now says it is developing a coronavirus website with the US government, after denying it yesterday

People walk past the Google office building in New York City on December 30, 2017.
People walk past the Google office building in New York City on December 30, 2017. Sean Gallup/Getty Images

After confusion and contradicting claims yesterday, Google now says it is working with the federal government to develop a nationwide website containing information about coronavirus symptoms and testing.

The company did not give a time frame of when the website would be up.

This comes after a previous denial: On Friday, after President Trump claimed Google was developing this website, the company said it would not be publishing a national-scale website for coronavirus testing anytime soon.

Instead, a health-focused subsidiary owned by Google’s parent company, Alphabet, said it intended to launch a small-scale website next week to begin to triage California-based patients. The website would aim to serve a broader population only “over time” — not “very quickly.”

In a different tweet Saturday night, the company did also mention the pilot website in the San Francisco area.

11:46 p.m. ET, March 14, 2020

South Korea's coronavirus cases continue to decrease

From CNN’s Yoonjung Seo in Seoul and Chermaine Lee in Hong Kong

Workers spray disinfectant at a subway station in Seoul on March 13.
Workers spray disinfectant at a subway station in Seoul on March 13. Jung Yeon-Je/AFP/Getty Images

After weeks of triple-digit increases, South Korea reported 76 new coronavirus cases today.

This brings the national total to 8,162 confirmed cases and 75 deaths, according to the South Korean Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Seven new cases are linked to a cluster at a call center in Seoul, and 41 new cases are from the southern city of Daegu, where the outbreak has been concentrated.

Of the total national cases, 74% are from Daegu.

A slowdown in infections: The country's case numbers spiked in February, with more than half of all cases linked to the Shincheonji religious group in Daegu.

After weeks of aggressive, fast, and widespread testing, a public health campaign, creative technologies including GPS quarantine monitoring, and other strict measures, case numbers began falling this week -- sparking cautious hope from health officials that the worst of the outbreak may have passed.

11:39 p.m. ET, March 14, 2020

New Jersey city imposes strict curfew and bans restaurants from serving food

From CNN's Paul Murphy

The New Jersey city of Hoboken is implementing a city-wide curfew and new restrictions, starting Monday, in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Hoboken is located right next to New York City's Manhattan, just across the Hudson River.

Residents must stay home from 10 p.m. until 5 a.m., unless they have to work during those hours, according to a statement from Mayor Bhalla.

The statement also announced drastic new restrictions on the city's restaurants and bars, effectively banning them from serving food within their venues - meaning they can only serve food through delivery and takeout.

"All bars and restaurant establishments, with and without a liquor license, are no longer permitted to serve food within the restaurant or bar. If a bar does not currently offer food, they will no longer be permitted to operate and are no longer permitted to serve alcohol, effective March 15 at 11 a.m," said the statement.

"The time is now to enact proactive policies that will help save lives in the long run," said Bhalla in the statement. "We must all now do our part."

11:28 p.m. ET, March 14, 2020

"No one seems prepared" at US airports: Long lines, no hand sanitizer and communal pens

Courtesy Katherine Rogers
Courtesy Katherine Rogers

Even as the US government declares a national emergency and restricts travel from countries worldwide, there is confusion and apparently few preventative measures in place at airports nationwide.

Five hour lines in Chicago: Katherine Rogers arrived at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport after flying in from Paris and through London. At O'Hare, she has been in line for a mandatory coronavirus screening for five hours -- and is told there's an hour left to go.

Ann Lewis Schmidt says she flew into O'Hare from Iceland, and has been in line for an-hour-and-a-half.

"Very close quarters," Schmidt said. "So if we didn’t have the virus before, we have a great chance of getting it now!"

Rogers and Schmidt both say they've not seen any hand sanitizer stations.

"No one seems prepared," Rogers says. "To take us off planes from all over the world and put us together for hours seems counterproductive." 

CNN has reached out to O'Hare International Airport and Customs and Border Patrol but has not yet received a response.

Courtesy Ann Lewis Schmidt
Courtesy Ann Lewis Schmidt

Sharing pens in New York: Katelyn Deibler landed at New York's John F. Kennedy airport from Ukraine on Saturday. It took over 2.5 hours to go through passport control and customs.

Deibler says she was given forms about symptoms and travel history upon arrival -- but there weren't enough forms for all passengers, so they had to wait for more.

"They didn't have pens and told us to share," she says. "Which sounds like a great thing in the middle of the pandemic."

Nick Carlin, another passenger, confirmed that they were told to share pens. He also says there was no hand sanitizer at JFK. 

11:26 p.m. ET, March 14, 2020

Oregon reports its first coronavirus death

The Oregon Health Authority has reported the state's first death from the coronavirus.

The patient was a 70-year-old man in Multnomah County, who was hospitalized at the Portland Veterans Affairs Medical Center and died Saturday.

There are currently 36 presumptive positive cases in Oregon.

11:15 p.m. ET, March 14, 2020

Trump and Boris Johnson discussed the UK travel restrictions earlier today

In this file photo, US President Donald Trump and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson speak during the annual NATO heads of government summit on December 4, 2019 in Watford, England. 
In this file photo, US President Donald Trump and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson speak during the annual NATO heads of government summit on December 4, 2019 in Watford, England.  Pool/Getty Images

US President Donald Trump spoke with UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson earlier today, as the US announced new travel restrictions with the UK, according to the White House.

The two leaders discussed also discussed a video conference next week between G7 leaders on the pandemic, said White House deputy press secretary Judd Deere.

The UK government put out a statement confirming Trump and Johnson spoke about coronavirus, but it did not mention the new travel restrictions.

"They discussed the coronavirus pandemic and the action being taken to stop the spread of the virus. The Prime Minister set out the science-led approach the UK is taking. Ahead of a call with G7 leaders on the outbreak the Prime Minister and the President agreed on the importance of international coordination to accelerate progress on the development of a vaccine and to prevent economic disruption for our citizens," the UK statement said.