March 25 coronavirus news

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9:28 p.m. ET, March 24, 2020

US sees deadliest day with 160 deaths

There are at least 52,976 cases of the novel coronavirus in the United States and 704 people have died, according to CNN Health’s tally of US cases that are detected and tested in the US through public health systems.

There have already been 163 deaths reported today, according to a tally by CNN, making this the deadliest day in the US since the coronavirus pandemic began.

The total includes cases from all 50 states, the District of Columbia and other U.S. territories, as well as all repatriated cases.

10:09 p.m. ET, March 24, 2020

US senators are having to step in to get their states the supplies they need

From CNN's Lauren Fox 

As states compete for valuable medical resources like testing kits, face masks and ventilators, some are turning to their senators to help with supply shortages.

Behind the scenes, lawmakers are overwhelmed by the stories they are hearing back home, and stepping in to troubleshoot. Senators are relying on their closer relationships with the White House and federal officials to get states what they need. 

Sen. Tina Smith, a Democrat from Minnesota, recounted that in her state, the public health department had been approved to receive more than 55,000 N95 masks, nearly 122,000 surgical masks, 23,145 face shields, more than 18,000 gowns and more than 67,000 gloves from the strategic stockpile. But when health officials opened up their shipment Friday, they saw just 657 pairs of gloves.

They called her office.

“That is kind of frightening when we are seeing the kind of upsurge in cases we are seeing,” Smith said in a phone interview with CNN Tuesday. “I worry that states are competing.” 

For the rest of the weekend, Smith and her staff were on the phone with Department of Health and Human Services, troubleshooting with the governor’s office and trying to understand what had gone wrong.

Just days later, after the weekend calls, Minnesota public health officials received another shipment that contained the items they had been approved for. But, Smith said public health officials in her state still warn it’s not likely to be enough for the long haul. She also said that her state still has not received a single ventilator from the stockpile. Other hot spots like New York, California and Washington continue to be top priorities as the government seeks to slow to spread of Covid-19 there.

Smith says she doesn’t blame career officials at HHS or the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

“I feel like the career staff are trying their hardest. I don’t blame them,” she said. “It feels as if the administration’s response is haphazard… I cannot help but think that if they had started to prepare for this in early February…we would have been in a better spot…”

It’s not just places like Minnesota that state officials are asking senators with closer ties to the federal government to help. 

Senate Majority Whip John Thune speaks with reporters at the door to his office on Capitol Hill in Washington, Monday, March 16.
Senate Majority Whip John Thune speaks with reporters at the door to his office on Capitol Hill in Washington, Monday, March 16. Patrick Semansky/AP

In South Dakota, Sen. John Thune, the second-ranking Republican in the Senate, stepped in to try and help his state. According to an aide familiar, Thune helped South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem lean on both the White House and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last week when the state needed more reagents required to complete the Covid-19 tests.

 

9:55 p.m. ET, March 24, 2020

London mayor says tube services running at a maximum despite government criticism

From CNN's Nada Bashir

Signs informing passengers of the temporary closure of many stations on the London Underground network stand inside a shuttered Lancaster Gate station in London, England, on Tuesday, March 24.
Signs informing passengers of the temporary closure of many stations on the London Underground network stand inside a shuttered Lancaster Gate station in London, England, on Tuesday, March 24. David Cliff/NurPhoto via Getty Images

London's Mayor Sadiq Khan has hit back at government criticism over the capital's tube network running a reduced service amid the Covid-19 outbreak, telling local news outlets that Transport for London (TFL) is operating the maximum number of tube services it can, while maintaining safety. 

"We’re running the maximum tubes we can, as safely as we can. That roughly means that there are 55% of the tubes running," Khan said Tuesday in an interview with Channel 4 News. 

The London's mayor's remarks come after images of London's tube services circulated Tuesday morning depicting crowded trains, despite the virtual lockdown imposed by the government on Monday. 

"The good news is that we’ve seen about an 85% reduction in the number of passengers. The concern is that too many people aren’t following the rules and the instructions, which is to stay at home," Khan added.

Earlier on Tuesday, UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock criticized Transport for London's decision to run a reduced service, suggesting that an increase in the number of tubes running would allow members of the public to adhere to the government's social-distancing guidelines, while traveling on the underground network.

"TFL should have the tube running in full so that people travelling on the tube can be spaced out and further apart, obeying the two metre rule as best possible," Hancock said during the government's daily Covid-19 press briefing. 

"There is no good reason in the information that I've seen that the current levels of tube provision should be as low as they are. We should have more tube trains running," the Health Secretary added. 

Speaking to BBC London, Khan denounced the "blame game being played" by Hancock, highlighting the "heroic" work being carried out by TFL staff, and the pressure placed on TFL by the number of staff members who are off work.

"About a third of TFL staff are off work, mainly because of themselves having Covid-19, or members of their family having the symptoms, which means they are self-isolating ... TFL are running the maximum service they’re able to do safely, with the number of staff that they have got," Khan asserted. 

9:53 p.m. ET, March 24, 2020

Australia bans overseas travel and extends social restrictions

From Hilary Whiteman in Brisbane and Akanksha Sharma in Hong Kong

A Qantas jet lands at Sydney airport on March 25 in Australia.
A Qantas jet lands at Sydney airport on March 25 in Australia. Mark Evans/Getty Images

Australia banned overseas travel and extended social restrictions in order to tackle the spread of the novel coronavirus, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced on Tuesday.

The decision to ban overseas travel is aligned with Australia's upgraded "Level 4: do not travel" and comes under the Biosecurity Act of 2015, Morrison said.

"We will be living with this virus for at least six months," Morrison warned, stating further that, "The highest priority should be placed on social isolation measures." 

To that effect, the Australian prime minister unveiled stricter social distancing measures that include weddings with a maximum attendance of no more than five people and funerals with no more than 10 people, with one person per 4 square meters (or at least 6 feet apart).

Australia reported a jump of 429 new confirmed cases of novel coronavirus on Wednesday, taking the national tally to 2,252 cases of which eight have died, according to the country's Department of Health. 

9:55 p.m. ET, March 24, 2020

US has potential to be next epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic, WHO spokesperson says

From CNN's Jacqueline Howard

A worker with Clinical Pathology Laboratories waits for patients at a drive-through coronavirus testing site Tuesday, March 24, in Las Vegas.
A worker with Clinical Pathology Laboratories waits for patients at a drive-through coronavirus testing site Tuesday, March 24, in Las Vegas. John Locher/AP

As coronavirus cases continue to rise in the United States, the nation has "potential" to become the next epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic, Margaret Harris, a spokesperson for the World Health Organization, said during a call with reporters on Tuesday. 

Harris was asked directly: "Do you see the United States going on to become the epicenter of this outbreak, overtaking Europe?"

In response Harris said, "We are now seeing a very large acceleration in the numbers of cases from the United States -- so it does have that potential. We cannot say that that is the case yet, but it does have that potential."

Earlier in the call, Harris said that the majority of the world's latest Covid-19 cases have been in European countries and the United States.

"The main drivers of the outbreak remain Europe, but also the US. So 85% of cases that have been reported in the last 24 hours have come from the European region and the US," Harris said on Tuesday. 

"A lot of countries are now taking very strong measures to distance people, to really quarantine entire societies, and these have been shown to be an important way of slowing down this spread of the virus and buying some time," Harris said. "But to defeat the virus, to stop it, countries also need very aggressive targeted tactics, testing every suspected case, isolating and caring for every person known to be ill and also tracing and quarantining and finding every close contact."