March 21 coronavirus news

By Joshua Berlinger, Brett McKeehan, Jack Guy, Fernando Alfonso III and Amir Vera, CNN

Updated 10:15 PM ET, Sat March 21, 2020
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2:58 p.m. ET, March 21, 2020

Coronavirus death toll in Italy rises by 793

From Valentina di Donato and Hada Messia in Rome

Coffins are unloaded from a military convoy at Ferrara cemetery in northern Italy on March 21.
Coffins are unloaded from a military convoy at Ferrara cemetery in northern Italy on March 21. Massimo Paolone/LaPresse/AP

The death toll in Italy from coronavirus has risen by 793 in the past 24 hours to 4,825, according to the Italian Civil Protection Agency.

Overall, the number of confirmed cases in Italy is 53,578, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

2:11 p.m. ET, March 21, 2020

Texas governor is waiving regulations for nursing students to help expand medical workforce

From CNN's Melissa Alonso 

Texas will issue temporary permits to "nurses who have yet to take the licensing exam" and suspend other regulations for students to assist with the state's response to Covid-19, Gov. Greg Abbott said in a press release Saturday.

Abbott is allowing "nurses with inactive licenses or retired nurses to reactivate their licenses," the release said.

Nursing students in their final year will be allowed to "meet their clinical objectives by exceeding the 50% limit on simulated experiences," the release added.

"In the coming weeks and months, Texas will continue to see a growing need for medical professionals to help us respond to these unique and challenging times," Abbott said.

1:58 p.m. ET, March 21, 2020

New Jersey governor issues "stay at home" order

From CNN's Melanie Schuman

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy announced a statewide "stay at home" order which will go in to effect at 9 p.m. ET Saturday.

This order follows New York and Connecticut which made similar orders Friday.

There are 1,327 confirmed Covid-19 cases in New jersey with 16 deaths in total, Murphy said at a press conference.

There were 400 more COVID-19 confirmed cases since yesterday, Murphy added

“From day one, we’ve made a commitment to be guided by the facts and take any action necessary to protect the health and safety of New Jersey’s nine million residents,” Murphy said in a press release. “We know the virus spreads through person-to person contact, and the best way to prevent further exposure is to limit our public interactions to only the most essential purposes. This is a time for us all to come together in one mission to ‘flatten the curve’ and slow – and eventually halt – the spread of coronavirus.”

The order will prohibit all gatherings, such as celebrations, the governor said.

Murphy’s executive order further directs the closure of all non-essential retail businesses to the public, with the exceptions of:

  • Grocery stores, farmer's markets and farms that sell directly to customers, and other food stores, including retailers that offer a varied assortment of foods comparable to what exists at a grocery store
  • Pharmacies and medical marijuana dispensaries
  • Medical supply stores
  • Gas stations
  • Convenience stores
  • Ancillary stores within healthcare facilities
  • Hardware and home improvement stores
  • Banks and other financial institutions
  • Laundromats and dry-cleaning services
  • Stores that principally sell supplies for children under five years
  • Pet stores
  • Liquor stores
  • Car dealerships, but only for auto maintenance and repair, and auto mechanics
  • Printing and office supply shops
  • Mail and delivery stores
2:12 p.m. ET, March 21, 2020

Top infectious disease doctor: "Not every single person in the United States needs to get tested"

From CNN’s Jason Hoffman

Patrick Semansky/AP
Patrick Semansky/AP

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, stressed that not all Americans should be tested for coronavirus during a White House press conference Saturday.

Fauci noted if people get tested unnecessarily, they will utilize important personal protective equipment that could be used for those who do need to be tested or are at a greater risk.

"Not every single person in the United States needs to get tested," Fauci said

Fauci noted that right now there are disparities in the amount of available personal protective equipment though, “we are working hard to correct that.”

Fauci also reiterated doctors should put off elective surgeries for the time being so they don’t put themselves of others at risk by utilizing medical equipment. 

1:33 p.m. ET, March 21, 2020

Pence and his wife will be tested Saturday afternoon for coronavirus

From CNN's Veronica Stracqualursi and Jason Hoffman

Vice President Mike Pence said Saturday during a news conference that he and his wife Karen would be tested for the coronavirus.

Pence said that more than 195,000 Americans have been tested for the virus. Pence noted that number does not include county hospitals or health care labs around the country.

Currently, only 19,343 tests have come back positive, Pence said.

Earlier Saturday: President Trump told reporters that Congress is close to reaching a deal on a proposal for the next stimulus bill to deal with the pandemic.

On Saturday, congressional and administration negotiators entered a crucial day in the effort to deploy more than $1 trillion in emergency stimulus to a staggering economy, with a growing consensus on a final agreement, but a handful of significant hang-ups still needed to be resolved.

2:10 p.m. ET, March 21, 2020

Pence: US Department of Health and Human Services has ordered "hundreds of millions of N95 masks"

Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images
Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

Vice President Mike Pence announced Saturday during a coronavirus task force meeting that the Department of Health and Human Services has placed a huge order for N95 masks needed to fight the coronavirus pandemic.

"I am pleased to report to the President today that HHS just placed an order for hundreds of millions of N95 masks made available to health care providers across the country," Pence said.

Pence then addressed the need to postpone certain medical procedures across the US out of precaution.

"On behalf of the President, we do renew the call for Americans to postpone elective medical procedures, including dental services, and this is another way to make sure that the medical supplies are available, by postponing elective medical procedures, you are freeing up medical supplies for those dealing with the coronavirus," he said.

1:21 p.m. ET, March 21, 2020

There are at least 21,240 coronavirus cases in the US

From CNN's Shawn Nottingham

There are 21,240 cases of the novel coronavirus in the United States, according to CNN Health’s tally of US cases that are detected and tested in the country through its public health systems. So far, 267 people have died. 

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

1:13 p.m. ET, March 21, 2020

Trump says "we are getting close" on a stimulus bill

From CNN's Kevin Bohn

CNN
CNN

President Trump told reporters that “we are getting close” to reaching a deal on a proposal for the next stimulus bill to deal with the coronavirus.

"There has never been anything like what we are doing on the Hill right now. They are negotiating. Mitch McConnell, Chuck Schumer, and they are all up there, Kevin Mccarthy and Nancy Pelosi. They are all negotiating and everybody is working hard and they want to get to a solution that is the right solution," Trump said Saturday at a coronavirus task force briefing.

Some context: Congressional and administration negotiators on Saturday entered a crucial day in the effort to deploy more than $1 trillion in emergency stimulus to a staggering economy, with a growing consensus on a final agreement, but a handful of significant hang-ups still to be resolved.

Bipartisan groups of senators worked late into Friday night with top officials from President Donald Trump's administration to lock in a final agreement — an agreement that people directly involved in the negotiations tell CNN could top a cost of $1.5 trillion — before falling short of a midnight deadline imposed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Larry Kudlow, a top economic adviser to Trump, went even further on the overall scope the package Saturday, telling reporters it could top $2 trillion.

"The package is coming in about 10% of GDP, it's a very large package," Kudlow, the director of the National Economic Council, said. Ten percent of gross domestic product is roughly $2 trillion.

1:08 p.m. ET, March 21, 2020

FDA approves new "point of care" coronavirus test that promises rapid results

From CNN’s Wes Bruer

The US Food and Drug Administration has announced emergency use authorization of a new on-site coronavirus test that could detect the virus in approximately 45 minutes.

The authorization was made Friday and tests will begin shipping next week, according to a statement from the company manufacturing the tests.