March 20 coronavirus news

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3:43 p.m. ET, March 20, 2020

US now has at least 16,300 coronavirus cases

From CNN's Amanda Watts

People who believe they have COVID-19 and who meet the criteria wait in line to be pre-screened for the corona virus outside of the Brooklyn Hospital Center on Fridayd, March 20, in the Brooklyn borough of New York.
People who believe they have COVID-19 and who meet the criteria wait in line to be pre-screened for the corona virus outside of the Brooklyn Hospital Center on Fridayd, March 20, in the Brooklyn borough of New York. Angela Weiss/AFP/Getty Images

There are 16,366 cases of novel coronavirus in the United States, according to CNN Health’s tally of US cases that are detected and tested in the country through public health systems.

So far, 215 people have died.

The total includes cases from all 50 states, Washington, DC, and other US territories, as well as all repatriated cases. 

Watch:

3:22 p.m. ET, March 20, 2020

United Airlines executives warn employees of massive job cuts if Congress doesn't act

From CNN’s Cristina Alesci

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images/FILE
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images/FILE

In a memo to employees, United Airlines executives and several labor leaders said the company will be forced to reduce payroll, “if Congress doesn’t act on sufficient government support by the end of March.” 

United CEO Oscar Munoz and United President Scott Kirby, along with labor leaders, warned that it will have to take the necessary steps to reduce payroll in line with the 60 percent schedule reduction, which goes into effect in April.

Earlier this week: United announced a 50 percent schedule reduction but the new travel restrictions the government announced Thursday might lead to additional schedule reductions, according to a United spokesperson.

3:12 p.m. ET, March 20, 2020

White House confirms pull back in non-coronavirus-related events

From CNN's Betsy Klein

Getty Images/FILE
Getty Images/FILE

When asked if it was fair to say the White House has postponed all non-coronavirus-related events and travel, deputy press secretary Judd Deere told CNN that there has been a scaling back in activities as they continue to follow the President's coronavirus guidelines.

“The White House is following the guidelines the President announced this week, which includes staying home if you feel sick, engaging in work at home when possible, avoiding social gatherings of 10 or more, using drive-thru, pick-up, or delivery options and much more," Deere said in a statement.

Deere added: "The complex has also implemented temperature checks at all entrances and for those in close contact with the President and Vice President, paused the internship and volunteer program, canceled all east and west wing tours and more to keep the campus safe and healthy.”

But a White House official stressed to CNN that the situation is fluid and that they are constantly evaluating the situation.

"This is a constantly changing, evolving situation," the official said.

For now, large scale social events — things that require logistical support and travel arrangements — are on hold.

There are still events on the calendar in the month of April, for instance, but the schedule is being evaluated "day by day," the official said.

Earlier Friday, the White House announced that the Presidential Medal of Freedom event scheduled for Monday for Annika Sorenstam and Gary Player had been postponed.

2:56 p.m. ET, March 20, 2020

Canada will turn back asylum seekers from the US border

From CNN’s Paula Newton

General view of the empty Detroit–Windsor Tunnel custom lanes that connects Detroit and Windsor, Canada on March 18, 2020 in Detroit, Michigan.
General view of the empty Detroit–Windsor Tunnel custom lanes that connects Detroit and Windsor, Canada on March 18, 2020 in Detroit, Michigan. Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Canada will return so called "irregular migrants" to the United States saying it is doing so to keep migrants and Canadians safe as its planning for the pandemic strains resources of border and health officials.

"We will now be returning irregular migrants who attempt to cross anywhere at the Canada-US border," Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said while speaking to reporters outside of his Ottawa residence where he is in quarantine.

Trudeau called these "exceptional measures" as they try to deal with an influx of migrants who must be processed and quarantined when they enter the country from the United States. Trudeau said most of the asylum seekers are in the US legally.

Asylum seekers are already returned to the US when they attempt to claim asylum at official border crossings in Canada under the Safe Third Country Agreement. For more than three years, migrants have been using a loophole to that law which means it does not apply at unofficial border crossings. 

Canada also said the border with the US would close to all non-essential travel as of midnight Friday. 

“This decision will be implemented on March 21, 2020, at which time the U.S. and Canada will temporarily restrict all non-essential travel across the US-Canada land border. The measure will be in place for 30 days, at which point it will be reviewed by both parties,” said the statement released by the Canadian government.

Canada took steps to place the country on more of a wartime footing announcing its new industrial policy would refocus to fight Covid-19. 

"Our objective is to increase domestic supply so that we have Canadian solutions ready to protect Canadians," Industry Minister Navdeep Bains said.

Canada also announced its goal was to be "over-prepared" and announced that it had secured 11.5 million N95 masks and will continue to procure health protective equipment.

3:20 p.m. ET, March 20, 2020

US has fewer hospital beds than Italy per capita

From CNN's Michael Nedelman

Workers construct a temporary hospital on a soccer field for people infected with COVID-19 on Thursday, March 19,  in Shoreline, Washington. The 200 bed facility will increase hospital capacity in the Seattle area and serve as a place where people infected can isolate and recover.
Workers construct a temporary hospital on a soccer field for people infected with COVID-19 on Thursday, March 19, in Shoreline, Washington. The 200 bed facility will increase hospital capacity in the Seattle area and serve as a place where people infected can isolate and recover. Karen Ducey/Getty Images

The novel coronavirus outbreak in Italy — whose health care system has more hospital beds per 1,000 people than the United States — could signal a lack of preparedness on the US front, according to commentary published this week in the New England Journal of Medicine.

"Though Italy’s health system is highly regarded and has 3.2 hospital beds per 1,000 people (as compared with 2.8 in the United States), it has been impossible to meet the needs of so many critically ill patients simultaneously," Dr. Lisa Rosenbaum, a cardiologist at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, wrote in the perspective piece published Wednesday.

Despite hospitals in Italy canceling elective surgeries and turning operating rooms into temporary intensive care units, the country has seen limited capacity in treating an influx of COVID-19 patients, Rosenbaum said. And doctors have had to ration care.

Experts, including US Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams, have widely cautioned that the US could "become Italy" as the outbreak worsens stateside.

3:20 p.m. ET, March 20, 2020

2 individuals linked to Pentagon test positive for coronavirus

From CNN's Barbara Starr and Ryan Browne

Daniel Slim/AFP/Getty Images
Daniel Slim/AFP/Getty Images

An Air Force service member and Air Force contractor who had been in the Pentagon within the last three weeks have tested positive for the coronavirus in what is believed to be the first cases involving Pentagon personnel.

 “An active duty member who works for Defense Health Agency, Falls Church, Va. tested positive for Covid-19. Although his duty station was in Falls Church, the individual was last in the Pentagon on March 16 for less than an hour and has since received medical treatment and self-quarantined at home,” the US Air Force said in a statement Friday.

"Military public health and local civilian public health officials have notified those in which the individual came in contact. All have been asked to adhere to Center for Disease Control guidance,” the statement added.

Additionally an Air Force contractor has also tested positive for coronavirus and has been in quarantine for nearly two weeks. 

“A defense contractor who works for the Air Force in the Pentagon has tested positive for Covid-19. The last time the infected member was in the Pentagon was March 2. The individual has received medical treatment and has been self-quarantined at home since March 7,” the statement said.

The individual also attended a symposium at a Joint Base Andrews in early March but the statement said, “The Virginia Department of Health has provided a 'low risk rating' based on the individual being asymptomatic at the symposium.”

 

2:39 p.m. ET, March 20, 2020

Florida governor orders all restaurants to provide takeout and delivery only

From CNN's Hollie Silverman and Lindsay Benson

A man sits outside a closed restaurant at a deserted Ocean drive in Miami, on March 18.
A man sits outside a closed restaurant at a deserted Ocean drive in Miami, on March 18. Chandan KhannaAFP via Getty Images

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis issued an executive order mandating all restaurants and food establishments in the state to suspend all food and alcohol consumption on site Friday.

Restaurants will only be allowed to provide delivery or takeout, the executive order said.

The order also allows restaurants to provide alcohol to delivery and take out customers who provide identification.

Gyms and other fitness centers were also ordered to be closed.

2:36 p.m. ET, March 20, 2020

US businesses will suffer a $4 trillion decline due to coronavirus, hedge fund predicts

From CNN's Cristina Alesci

Scott Sonner/AP
Scott Sonner/AP

Famed hedge fund Bridgewater predicts the coronavirus will lead to $4 trillion in lost corporate revenue for both public and private businesses in the US, according to a report the firm published Friday.

“That is a very dangerous decline, and if not mitigated, it will lead to a long-lasting ripple,” said the Bridgewater team who authored the research report.

In Bridgewater’s model, companies will have a shortfall of $2 trillion “concentrated in energy and travel and leisure, and about equally divided between large and small companies.”

The firm projects a 6% decline in US GDP for 2020, with the biggest hit during the second quarter.

The firm also estimates a decline of $12 trillion for global businesses in 2020.

“Since this hit to revenues is happening throughout the world, the total hole globally will be roughly three times that—about $12 trillion. Governments are responding, of course, but in most cases these responses will just mitigate some of the ripple. Governments’ capacities to deal with this hit vary greatly and will be a major driver of markets going forward," the report stated.

“Many companies will try to fill this gap by drawing credit lines, increasing their debt positions,” said the investors.

If government policies don’t help fill the gap, companies are likely to dramatically cut spending, which would result in meaningful cuts in employment.

Ray Dalio, who founded Bridgewater, is famous for predicting the 2008 financial crisis.

2:26 p.m. ET, March 20, 2020

World Health Organization has distributed 1.5 million coronavirus lab tests around the world

From CNN’s Amanda Watts and Mallory Simon

World Health Organization Health Emergencies Programme Director Michael Ryan talks during a press briefing in Geneva on March 11.
World Health Organization Health Emergencies Programme Director Michael Ryan talks during a press briefing in Geneva on March 11. Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty Images

The World Health Organization has distributed 1.5 million coronavirus lab tests around the world and they will need 80 to 100 times that, according to Dr. Mike Ryan, executive director of the World Health Organization health emergencies program.

Speaking at a WHO briefing on Friday, Ryan said, “If we look forward in this epidemic, and we project ourselves forward a number of months, and the amount of testing that is going to be needed, we need to scale that up approximately 80 to 100 times.” 

“So, it’s not about doubling the availability of lab tests, it’s not about tripling it, it’s about potentially increasing that 80-fold. Now that’s an extreme analysis, but that’s what we need to aim for,” Ryan warned.

Addressing the impact on health systems, Ryan said, “Look at the intensive care units, completely overwhelmed, the doctors and nurses utterly exhausted. This is not normal. This isn't just a bad flu season. These are health systems that are collapsing under the pressure of too many cases. This is not normal, this is not just a little bit worse than we're used to."