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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8:49 p.m. ET, March 15, 2020

Maine governor declares state of emergency, recommends school closures

From CNN’s Gregory Clary

Maine Gov. Janet Mills speaks at a news conference in Augusta, Maine, on Thursday.
Maine Gov. Janet Mills speaks at a news conference in Augusta, Maine, on Thursday. Robert F. Bukaty/AP

Maine Gov. Janet Mills declared a state of emergency Sunday and recommended school closures statewide, according to a news release from her office.

Mills is recommended postponing events with 50 or more people as well as the postponement of "all non-urgent medical procedures, elective surgeries, and appointments at hospitals and health care providers across the state until further notice."

8:46 p.m. ET, March 15, 2020

Massachusetts bans eating and drinking at bars and restaurants until at least April 17

From CNN's Laura Ly

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker announced Sunday that he is "banning all on-premises eating and drinking at all restaurants and bars throughout the state, but will still allow establishments to offer food for takeout or delivery."

"Establishments must also follow the social distancing protocols set forth in the Department of Public Health guidance," Baker said.

The order goes into effect Tuesday and will be in effect until at least April 17, Baker said.

Baker also said he is prohibiting gatherings of more than 25 people.

"Subject to this order, these gatherings include all community, civic, public, leisure, faith-based events sporting events with spectators, concerts, conventions, and any similar event or activity that brings together 25 or more people in a single room or a single space at the same time. This includes venues like fitness centers, private clubs and theaters," Baker said.
8:45 p.m. ET, March 15, 2020

Grand Princess cruise ship to temporarily anchor in San Francisco Bay 

From CNN’s Stella Chan

The Grand Princess ship in San Francisco on March 9.
The Grand Princess ship in San Francisco on March 9. Noah Berger/AP

The Grand Princess cruise ship will leave the Port of Oakland Sunday at 7 p.m. PST and will temporarily anchor in San Francisco Bay, according to a news release from the California Governor's Office of Emergency Services.

Crew members aboard the ship will disembark for chartered flights from a non-commercial portion of San Francisco International Airport, the release says.

Those disembarking for charted flights Sunday will undergo the same health screenings as passengers from the Grand Princess.

As of Saturday, state and federal officials have disembarked more than 2,900 people from the Grand Princess, including more than 2,400 passengers and more than 500 crew members, the release said.

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.


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.