March 20 coronavirus news

By Helen Regan, Joshua Berlinger, Julia Hollingsworth, Adam Renton, Steve George and Fernando Alfonso III, CNN

Updated 9:27 p.m. ET, March 20, 2020
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12:38 p.m. ET, March 20, 2020

Trump announces suspension of federally held student loan payments

From CNN's Jason Hoffman

President Trump announced that the Department of Education will not enforce standardized testing requirements for the current school year. Trump said this will be for all students, elementary through high school. 

"With many schools closed due to the virus, the department of education will not enforce standardized testing requirements, very importantly for students in elementary school through high school for the current year," Trump said. 

Trump also announced that interest will be temporarily waived on student loans and federally held student loan payments will be suspended for 60 days.

"We have also temporarily waived all interest on federally held student loans," he said at the daily Coronavirus press briefing. "Today secretary Devos directed borrowers to suspend loans and student loan payments without penalty for 60 days and if we need more we'll extend that period of time."

12:54 p.m. ET, March 20, 2020

Trump now says federal government will send "millions of masks" to states

Evan Vucci/AP
Evan Vucci/AP

Just one day after putting the responsibility on the states to get their own supplies, President Trump appears to now be saying the federal government is going to help states get crucial medical supplies.

"We have millions of masks which are coming which are distributed to the states. The states are having a hard time getting them," Trump said.

On the medical supplies, he added: "They'll be here soon and we'll ship them directly to states."

More context: Yesterday at the daily coronavirus task force news conference, Trump said, "The governors are supposed to be doing a lot of this work and they are doing a lot of this work" to get medical supplies. He continued, "The federal government is not supposed to be out there buying vast amounts of items and shipping. You know, we're not a shipping clerk."

12:45 p.m. ET, March 20, 2020

Trump doesn't think a national lockdown order is "necessary"

Evan Vucci/AP
Evan Vucci/AP

President Trump does not think a national lockdown order is needed as the US continues to deal with the coronavirus outbreak.

Trump's remarks Friday afternoon come after New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said 100% of non-essential workers should stay home.

"I don't think so," Trump said when asked about the need for a national lockdown. "Essentially you've done that California and New York have done that. I don't think so. Because you go out to the midwest and other locations and they're watching their television but they don't have the same problems."

Trump added: "We are working with the governors and I don't think we'll ever find it necessary."

12:24 p.m. ET, March 20, 2020

Top US doctor says he supports New York mandate to stay home

CNN
CNN

Top US infectious disease doctor Dr. Anthony Fauci, a member of the White House coronavirus task force, said he "strongly" supports the New York governor's decision to mandate that 100% of non-essential workers stay home in the state.

Fauci, a New Yorker himself, added: "I know what New Yorkers can do. We're tough."

He called on all New Yorkers to cooperate with the mandate.

More context: Earlier today, Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued a mandate requiring all non-essential workers to stay home in the state. The number of positive cases has surged to over 7,000 as the state has ramped up testing, the governor said.

12:26 p.m. ET, March 20, 2020

Italian males are dying faster than females from coronavirus, US health expert says

CNN
CNN

Deborah Birx, a physician and public health expert, spoke Friday about some of the "concerning" trends she is seeing across the globe during the coronavirus pandemic.

Birx specifically discussed Italy, where the number of deaths related to coronavirus has surpassed China.

"We continue to review the data and we continue to see signs that individuals under 20, 19 and under, may have severe disease but majority have all recovered to date. We still see the same trend and frankly from Italy we are seeing another concerning trend that the mortality in males seems to be twice in every age group of females. This should alert all of us to continue our vigilance to protect our Americans that are in nursing homes," Birx said.

More on Italy and China: The number of deaths in Italy reached 3,405 on Thursday, the Italian Civil Protection Agency said at a news conference — 156 more than China's toll, which, according to Johns Hopkins University, stands at 3,249.

The total number of cases in Italy rose to 41,035 with 5,322 new cases, officials added.

The grim figure comes hours after China marked a major milestone in the battle to limit the spread, reporting no new locally transmitted coronavirus cases for the first time since the pandemic began.

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

Trump says he kicked use of Defense Production Act "into gear"

From CNN's Kevin Liptak

Alex Wong/Getty Images
Alex Wong/Getty Images

President Trump said he kicked his usage of the Defense Production Act "into gear" on Thursday evening after saying he would only invoke the measure in a worst case scenario.

Trump told reporters he'd moved the National Response Coordination Center — an office within the Federal Emergency Management Agency — into the "highest level of activation."

"We are helping the states a lot," Trump said during the daily coronavirus briefing.

More on this: There remains some confusion around Trump's use of the Defense Production Act, which he signed on Wednesday but later said he wasn't yet invoking despite shortages of medical gear and equipment.

On Thursday, Trump said it was the responsibility of individual governors to ensure their states have sufficient levels of supplies.

The DPA allows the federal government to direct industries to produce necessary equipment, but it remains unclear whether Trump has provided that direction yet.

12:14 p.m. ET, March 20, 2020

Trump applauds "strong, bold steps" in New York and California

From CNN's Betsy Klein

Evan Vucci/AP
Evan Vucci/AP

President Trump expressed support for measures taken by Gov. Gavin Newsom and Andrew Cuomo in California and New York, respectively, to address the coronavirus pandemic. 

Trump said he’s been watching what's happened in California, where Newsom issued a state-wide lock down.

On Friday, Cuomo announced that all workers in non-essential businesses across New York state are required to stay home in an effort to combat the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

“I applaud them. They’re taking very strong, bold steps and I applaud them,” Trump said about the governors.
12:17 p.m. ET, March 20, 2020

Secretary of State confirms restricted travel order to Canada and Mexico

CNN
CNN

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo confirmed reports that the US has worked with Mexico to "restrict non-essential travels across our shared border," he said today during the Coronavirus Task Force White House briefing.

Pompeo discussed the restriction of travel to Canada as well.

"President Trump announced on Wednesday, the United States and Canada jointly agreed to restrict non essential traffic across ourborders, it goes into effect at midnight and excluding crossing the border unless for work or other essential reasons. The United States and Mexico have agreed to restrict non-essential travels across our shared border. Both our countries know the importance of working together to limit the spread of the virus," Pompeo said.

Following Pence's remarks, Chad Wolf, acting Homeland Security secretary, said neither agreement with Canada or Mexico applies to lawful trade or commerce.

"We'll continue to maintain a strong supply chain across our border," Wolf said.

The agreement between Mexico and Canada will go affect March 21.

12:10 p.m. ET, March 20, 2020

Trump said he had an "extremely good" call with the top Senate Democrat today

From CNN's Betsy Klein and Manu Raju

Evan Vucci/AP
Evan Vucci/AP

President Trump confirmed he spoke with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer on Friday. Trump had an “extremely good” call with Schumer “a little while ago,” he said at the Coronavirus Task Force White House briefing. 

A Schumer spokesperson passed along a readout of the call earlier today, saying that Schumer urged Trump to invoke the Defense Production Act. 

Trump did not confirm the Schumer readout of the call, which said he agreed to immediately invoke the Act.

“We are working on various elements of the deal. The Democrats are very much wanting something to happen and I think it will,” Trump said of a stimulus bill.

Trump said he also spoke “at length” with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and there is a “tremendous spirit to get something done.”