March 21 coronavirus news

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12:29 p.m. ET, March 21, 2020

Kroger expands sick leave for diagnosed and quarantined Covid-19 employees

Kroger, one of the United States' largest supermarket retailers, is expanding its paid sick leave to associates diagnosed with COVID-19 or under mandatory quarantine, company spokeswoman Kristal Howard says.

The grocer company will also "provide a one-time bonus to every hourly frontline" employee, amounting to $300 for every full-time and $150 for every part-time associate, according to a Kroger press release. 

"We believe that by expanding our emergency leave guidelines, more of our associates can feel certain knowing that if their health is affected by or if they experience symptoms of COVID-19, they will be supported while they stay at home and recover," said Tim Massa, Kroger's senior vice president and chief people officer. 

Kroger has confirmed two of its employees have tested positive for coronavirus, one in Colorado and another in Washington. Both associates are receiving medical care and are recovering, Howard said.

12:23 p.m. ET, March 21, 2020

Miami-Dade County mayor closes hotels except for essential personnel

Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez issued an emergency order Saturday closing all hotels, motels and other lodging due to coronavirus.

Exceptions are available for those housing essential personnel and those who have been displaced due to the virus, a press release from the mayor said.

All short-term vacation rentals must end by March 23 until further notice, the release said.

Gimenez also included an order for boats to stop "rafting up" for parties at sea or in Biscayne Bay.

12:04 p.m. ET, March 21, 2020

Stimulus package could top $2 trillion as negotiators look to clear final major hurdles

Larry Kudlow speaks to the press outside the White House on March 16.
Larry Kudlow speaks to the press outside the White House on March 16. Oliver Contreras/Sipa/Bloomberg via Getty Images

US 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 need to be resolved.

Bipartisan groups of senators worked late into Friday night with top officials from President 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.

The expanding price tag of the package was matched only the expanding crisis it is being drafted to try and blunt. The negotiations are expected to continue toward a final agreement through the day, with both sides acknowledging failure at this point isn't an option.

11:55 a.m. ET, March 21, 2020

New York needs medical gowns and is searching for more

CNN
CNN

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said New York state is in need of medical gowns and is doing everything it can to fill that need.

"It's a gown shortage statewide. We're doing better with masks. We're doing better with ventilators, nowhere near where we need to be with ventilators, we need 30,000 ventilators, we're at 6,000. But at least we got to 6,000," Cuomo said on Saturday during a press conference. "The masks, the medical community has told me over and over again, the masks are the priority for the Covid-19. So we have made progress on masks. Gowns are also very important no doubt. But we have not been successful, as of yet, with finding a supplier of gowns."

11:54 a.m. ET, March 21, 2020

There are 10,356 confirmed coronavirus cases across New York, governor says

There are at least 10,356 confirmed cases of Covid-19 across New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a press conference Saturday.

At least 45,000 people have been tested for Covid-19, the governor said.

About 15% of those cases are being hospitalized.

"The more test you take, the more positives you find," Cuomo said.
11:25 a.m. ET, March 21, 2020

New York state sending masks to NYC to help with coronavirus pandemic

New York state is sending 1 million N95 masks to New York City, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Saturday.

“It won’t get us through the crisis, but it will make a significant contribution to New York City’s mask issue,” Cuomo said.

Apparel companies are converting to mask manufacturers in New York and Cuomo said he is exploring the state of New York manufacturing masks.

11:21 a.m. ET, March 21, 2020

New York governor: "Everything that can be done is being done"

CNN
CNN

Gov. Andrew Cuomo spoke today on what New York state is doing to respond to the growing coronavirus epidemic.

At the top of Cuomo's list is increasing hospital capacity, building beds and seeking out locations to help treat a growing number of infected.

"Every piston is firing. Everything that can be done is being done. New Yorkers are lucky we have a very experienced team that's doing this. This is not their first rodeo, they've been through a number of emergencies on a number of levels" Cuomo said Saturday during a press conference. "Increasing hospital capacity. We want to get the capacity of 50,000 up to a minimum of 75,000. We told the hospitals we're going to be ending elective surgeries. We're now working with hospitals to reconfigure the space in the hospital to get more beds and to find more staff to manage those beds. We're working on building new beds."

Cuomo said he will be looking at the Javits Center, SUNY Stony Brook and the Westchester County Center, among other places, as possible treatment locations.

11:28 a.m. ET, March 21, 2020

In strategic shift, doctors in America's two largest cities are told to skip some coronavirus testing

A doctor examines a man for a COVID-19 test inside a testing tent at St. Barnabas Hospital in New York City on March 20.
A doctor examines a man for a COVID-19 test inside a testing tent at St. Barnabas Hospital in New York City on March 20. Misha Friedman/Getty Images

Health officials in New York City and Los Angeles County are signaling a change in local strategy when it comes to coronavirus testing, recommending that doctors avoid testing patients except in cases where a test result would significantly change the course of treatment.

A news release from the Los Angeles Department of Public Health this week advised doctors not to test those experiencing only mild respiratory symptoms unless “a diagnostic result will change clinical management or inform public health response.”

The recommendation reflects a "shifting from a strategy of case containment to slowing disease transmission and averting excess morbidity and mortality," according to the statement.

The guidance said coronavirus testing at L.A. County public health labs will prioritized those with symptoms, health care workers, residents of long-term care facilities, paramedics and other high-risk situations. Others are encouraged to simply stay at home.

At about the same time, the New York City Department of Health directed all healthcare facilities to immediately stop testing non-hospitalized patients for Covid-19. 

“At this point in the pandemic, demand for unnecessary testing is contributing to the rapidly diminishing supply of PPE and leading to a decreasing supply of swabs and viral transport media used to collect diagnostic specimens for Covid-19 testing,” a statement read. “Testing may play a more significant role after the pandemic has peaked.” 

Some context: The strategy shift essentially codifies the reality health departments have been living with for weeks; a shortage of tests and protective equipment amid rising demand and case numbers.

It also puts into practice advice from many of America’s top medical experts, including CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta, that a positive test result is not required to treat the symptoms.

Naturally, limiting testing in America's two largest population centers would also likely lead to widespread under-counting of total cases.

10:39 a.m. ET, March 21, 2020

United Kingdom urges shoppers to stop panic buying

People wait in line at a Costco in Glasgow, Scotland, before it opens on March 21.
People wait in line at a Costco in Glasgow, Scotland, before it opens on March 21. Andy Buchanan/AFP via Getty Images

The United Kingdom government is urging shoppers to act responsibly amid panic buying sparked by the coronavirus outbreak.

At the daily press briefing held at Downing Street, the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, George Eustice, appealed for shoppers to think of others.

“Buying more than you need means that others may be left without. And it is making life more difficult for those frontline workers… who are working so hard in such difficult circumstances,” Eustice said.

“There is more than enough food to go round,” Eustice said, adding that the supply chain is able to step up to meet demand.

Many supermarket shelves have been left empty in recent days. 

National Medical Director of the National Health Service (NHS) Stephen Powis says the panic buying has left some health workers unable to get food at the end of a long work shift.

“Frankly, we should all be ashamed that that has to happen,” he said, referring to a critical care nurse who posted a tearful video on social media when she was unable to buy food.

“These are the very people that we will all need," Powis added.