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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8:11 p.m. ET, March 15, 2020

Vice President Pence says new guidelines on curfews and social distancing to come Monday

From Jason Hoffman and Nicky Robertson

Vice President Pence said there will be new guidelines released Monday morning regarding potential curfews or closures of such locations as restaurants.

Pence said those guidelines are being vetted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for now, the federal government is deferring to decisions made by state and local governments.

"What my health care team, some of the best people in the world, tell me very regularly is that it's very important that you follow the data, you make decisions based on the circumstances that are taking place in that community," Pence said.
8:11 p.m. ET, March 15, 2020

Czech Republic shuts down public services to prevent spread of coronavirus 

From CNN’s Jaide Timm-Garcia

All shops and public food services are closed in the Czech Republic until March 24 to "prevent the spread of the coronavirus contagion," according to a news release from the Czech Republic's Ministry of Health. 

"In the present situation, we see the gathering of people in shopping centres and in restaurants as too great a risk," Prime Minister Andrej Babiš said. "By no means do we want to restrict the sale of food, pharmaceuticals, druggist goods, and fuel and other essentials. People do not need to worry: food supplies remain unrestricted and it really is not necessary for people to empty store-shelves of goods." 

Exceptions include dining services that do not serve the general public and fast food establishments, the release said. Exceptions include stores selling food, hygienic or medical products, fuel or tobacco products, electronic or telecommunication equipment, animal food or cleaning services, or newspaper and magazines. 

"Only fundamental restrictions like this can help stop the spread of the infection in our country," said Adam Vojtěch, Minister of Health. "Even though it is not pleasant for any of us, this is about protecting our health."

8:25 p.m. ET, March 15, 2020

CDC recommends canceling or postponing events involving more than 50 people for eight weeks

From CNN's Ben Tinker

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published interim guidance Sunday recommending "that for the next 8 weeks, organizers (whether groups or individuals) cancel or postpone in-person events that consist of 50 people or more throughout the United States."

"Events of any size should only be continued if they can be carried out with adherence to guidelines for protecting vulnerable populationshand hygiene, and social distancing. When feasible, organizers could modify events to be virtual," the CDC's guidance said.

The CDC's recommendation does not apply to "day to day operations of organizations such as schools, institutes of higher learning or businesses."

"This recommendation is made in an attempt to reduce introduction of the virus into new communities and to slow the spread of infection in communities already affected by the virus. This recommendation is not intended to supersede the advice of local public health officials," the CDC said.

Watch:

7:59 p.m. ET, March 15, 2020

Oklahoma declares state of emergency

From CNN's Shawn Nottingham

Oklahoma declared a state of emergency Sunday, according to an order from Gov. Kevin Stitt.

The declaration comes as the state announced their eighth case of coronavirus. In Stitt’s order, he says Oklahoma’s state emergency operations plan is being activated.

 

8:50 p.m. ET, March 15, 2020

29 states announce school closures amid coronavirus

From CNN's Shawn Nottingham

Twenty-nine states have closed schools in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.

The states have announced that they will be closing schools in the coming weeks. The amount of time and conditions under which they will close differ from state to state.

Here are the states that have closed schools so far:

  • Alaska
  • Arizona
  • Arkansas
  • Delaware
  • Florida
  • Kansas
  • Illinois
  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana
  • Maryland
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • Mississippi
  • Montana
  • New Hampshire
  • New Mexico
  • North Carolina
  • Ohio
  • Oregon
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island
  • South Carolina
  • South Dakota
  • Vermont
  • Virginia
  • Utah
  • Washington
  • West Virginia
  • Wisconsin
  • New York
  • New Jersey
7:29 p.m. ET, March 15, 2020

Massachusetts suspends schools for three weeks

From CNN's Elizabeth Joseph

Massachusetts public and private schools will suspend operations for three weeks beginning Tuesday until April 6, according to a news release from Gov. Charlie Baker.

“Our administration is taking these rapid steps to protect the health and safety of our residents to mitigate the spread of COVID-19,” Baker said. “We know that a lot of the measures we are putting into place, including mandatory school closures and prohibiting gatherings of 25 people or more, will cause disruption in people’s day to day lives. With the steps we are taking today, we can ensure residents can still access key state services while taking necessary precautions to limit the spread of COVID-19.”

There are 138 confirmed coronavirus cases in Massachusetts, the state’s health department announced late Saturday afternoon.

8:18 p.m. ET, March 15, 2020

Interest rate cut will 'take a toll on the economy in the near term,' Fed chairman says

From CNN’s Clare Duffy

After cutting the target interest rate to zero on Sunday to help the economy during the coronavirus pandemic, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said the measures were "essential to contain the outbreak," but will "take a toll on the economy in the near term."

The Fed took a number of actions "to support American families and business and the economy overall and to support the flow of credit" as it is affected by coronavirus, Powell said. 

The Fed expects to maintain the rate until “we are confident the economy has weathered" the current situation, Powell said.

Watch:

7:14 p.m. ET, March 15, 2020

Lebanon announces two-week lockdown

From Ghazi Balkiz 

Patrick Baz/AFP/Getty Images
Patrick Baz/AFP/Getty Images

Lebanon has closed its airport, borders and ports for two weeks starting Sunday until March 29 at midnight to contain the spread of coronavirus in the country, Information Minister Manal Abdul Samad said in a press conference on Sunday in Beirut.

People are obligated to stay in their homes unless there is an "extreme necessity," the minister said.

The government is banning public and private gatherings and government offices will be closed except for security, health and service offices, according to Abul Samad.

All private commercial companies, except for food production-related ones, were also instructed to close, the minister said.

Coronavirus killed three people and infected 100 others in Lebanon as of Sunday.

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.