March 26 coronavirus news

By Jessie Yeung, Joshua Berlinger, Adam Renton, Meg Wagner, Emma Reynolds and Mike Hayes, CNN

Updated 10:52 PM ET, Thu March 26, 2020
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11:40 p.m. ET, March 25, 2020

Coronavirus patients are starting to overwhelm US hospitals

From CNN's Michael Nedelman

Susie McCann, right, of the Arizona health department, assess a room in the emergency area with a member of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as they tour the currently closed St. Luke's Medical Center hospital to see the viability of reopening the facility for possible future use due to the coronavirus Wednesday, March 25, in Phoenix.
Susie McCann, right, of the Arizona health department, assess a room in the emergency area with a member of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as they tour the currently closed St. Luke's Medical Center hospital to see the viability of reopening the facility for possible future use due to the coronavirus Wednesday, March 25, in Phoenix. Ross D. Franklin/AP

"We ended up getting our first positive patients -- and that's when all hell broke loose," said one New York City doctor.

The doctor, who spoke to CNN on condition of anonymity out of concern for his job, described a hospital that was woefully unprepared for an influx of Covid-19 patients that started roughly two weeks ago -- which has already stretched the hospital's resources thin and led to severely ill patients outnumbering ventilators.

"We don't have the machines, we don't have the beds," the doctor said.

"To think that we're in New York City and this is happening," he added. "It's like a third-world country type of scenario. It's mind-blowing."

At first, patients skewed toward the 70-plus age group, but in the past week or so there have been a number of patients younger than 50.

"I don't think they understand the severity of this disease," the doctor said of the younger patients.

"Two weeks ago, life was completely different."

Read more about the influx of patients here

11:17 p.m. ET, March 25, 2020

New Zealand has confirmed 73 more cases -- its biggest single-day jump

Taranaki Street during the first day of a nationwide lockdown on March 26, 2020 in Wellington, New Zealand.
Taranaki Street during the first day of a nationwide lockdown on March 26, 2020 in Wellington, New Zealand. Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images

New Zealand confirmed 73 new coronavirus patients and identified five more probable cases from 9:30 a.m. local time yesterday until the same time today, the country's Ministry of Health said in a statement.

That's the biggest single-day jump in cases in the country since the pandemic began.

"Of our new cases today, the majority still have a link to overseas travel, including being in the same household as someone who has returned from overseas, have attended a known event or linked to a cluster of other cases or are close contacts of a confirmed case," the ministry said.

As of this morning in New Zealand, the country has confirmed a total of 262 coronavirus cases and identified 21 probable patients. Twenty-seven have recovered.

"These are unprecedented times for New Zealand and other countries around the globe. We are all in this together. We will expect the number of cases to increase for at least the next ten days. If we all do our bit, and we break the chain of transmission, slow the spread of COVID-19 and we will be able to get on top of this," the ministry said.

Authorities said they have identified several possible outbreak clusters:

  • Marist College in Auckland 
  • The World Hereford cattle conference in Queenstown
  • A wedding in Wellington
  • A trip by a Wellington group of friends to the US
  • A contact with the Ruby Princess in Hawkes Bay 
  • A rest home in Hamilton. 

Strict measures in force: The rise in new cases comes a day after Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern decided to raise New Zealand's alert to the highest Level 4, placing "the most significant" restrictions on its people "in our modern history," she said.

In her statement announcing the measures, which went into effect just before midnight, Arden acknowledged no other country has moved as fast to restrict daily life, but the trigger was early evidence of community transmission in New Zealand.

"Unlike so many other gravely inundated countries, we have a window of opportunity to stay home, break the chain of transmission, and save lives. It’s that simple," she said.

11:07 p.m. ET, March 25, 2020

The US experienced its deadliest day of the coronavirus pandemic on Wednesday

From CNN's Eliott C. McLaughlin, Christina Maxouris and Steve Almasy

More than 200 deaths from Covid-19 were reported Wednesday in the United States -- a new high for fatalities recorded in a single day.

The dramatic spike brought the number of novel coronavirus deaths since the outbreak reached the United States in late January to at least 928. Sunday morning -- less than four days ago -- the nationwide total was 326 deaths, according to CNN data derived from state reports.

Officials reported 223 deaths Wednesday, an increase higher than any other day. Tuesday saw 164 reports. Experts have said numbers will rise dramatically as more tests are administered and analyzed.

At the White House coronavirus task force news conference, President Donald Trump said: "The more aggressively we commit to social distancing ... the more lives we can save."

More than 65,000 people in the United States have now had a positive test for the novel coronavirus.

Read more:

10:58 p.m. ET, March 25, 2020

The Senate is now voting on the stimulus package

The US Senate is now voting on the $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus package.

First is a vote on an amendment from Republican Senator Ben Sasse to modify unemployment benefits, which is expected to fail.

Next, senators will vote on the final passage of the stimulus package. Both votes have a 60-vote threshold for passage. 

The vote comes after days of marathon negotiations that produced one of the most expensive and far-reaching measures Congress has ever considered.

Read the full final draft of the bill, which was sent to Congress members tonight and that will be voted upon, here:

10:51 p.m. ET, March 25, 2020

Fundraising drive to help homeless after Hong Kong McDonald's announces 6 p.m. closures

From CNN's James Griffiths

A couple sit for a meal as a man sleeps on a bench at a McDonalds outlet in the Kowloon district of Hong Kong on April 8, 2016.
A couple sit for a meal as a man sleeps on a bench at a McDonalds outlet in the Kowloon district of Hong Kong on April 8, 2016. Anthony Wallace/AFP/Getty Images

With a new wave of coronavirus cases spreading through Hong Kong, the city's government and many businesses have announced new measures to rein in the outbreak.

On Tuesday, McDonald's Hong Kong announced it would be closing its 235 branches in the city -- usually open 24 hours -- from 6 p.m. every day. That's devastating news for the hundreds of people experiencing homelessness who regularly spend their nights in the restaurants.

A study in 2018 found there had been a five-fold increase in the number of people sleeping in McDonald's outlets, a number that has likely gone up as the city has felt the pinch from the coronavirus slowdown. Homeless charities had already reported record numbers of people seeking relief in recent weeks.

"Hundreds of homeless individuals rely on this fast food restaurant for a safe shelter each and every night in Hong Kong," said Jeff Rotmeyer, founder of ImpactHK, a local charity.

Government homeless shelters are only opened during extreme weather, and do not provide a long-term solution for many people sleeping rough.

Help on the horizon: A fundraising push by ImpactHK to raise money to house "McRefugees" has already passed its 100,000 Hong Kong dollars ($12,900) goal.

"Wow you guys came through on this crowdfunding campaign," Rotmeyer said Wednesday in a Facebook video. "We're looking at possibly housing 50 individuals in a single week."
Those receiving support from the charity will be put up in a hotel or other accommodation for at minimum two weeks. "During that time they can get a good night's sleep, they can have a shower, they'll have a bathroom, they don't have to worry about shelter, or about food, because we have breakfast, lunch and dinner every day," Rotmeyer said.
"During those two weeks we hope to have great conversations with these individuals and really see how as friends we can further our support to power them up," he added.

Crowdfunding continues: Rotmeyer said 100% of funds would be used to support the homeless and would go to small hotels suffering from the economic slowdown.

10:39 p.m. ET, March 25, 2020

Bolivia declares nationwide lockdown and state of emergency, closes all borders

From CNN’s Gloria Carrasco in Bolivia and Tatiana Arias in Atlanta

Workers and customers wear face masks as a preventive measure against the spread of the coronavirus at a market in La Paz on March 24.
Workers and customers wear face masks as a preventive measure against the spread of the coronavirus at a market in La Paz on March 24. Aizar Raldes/AFP/Getty Images

Bolivia's interim president declared a state of emergency and nationwide lockdown on Wednesday, to go into effect on Thursday at midnight.

It will last through April 15, said interim president Jeanine Anez.

In an address to the nation late Wednesday, Anez said Bolivians hadn't followed the government-ordered mandatory quarantine measures -- so the risk of infection is now higher, and needs more stringent containment measures.

All borders will be closed, and no public or private vehicles will be allowed to travel except for certain essential reasons.

"No one leaves, nor does anyone enter the country, except for security and health reasons," said Anez.

Nobody is allowed to leave their homes at all on weekends, when "all outings are prohibited" except for medical or security emergencies, she said.

During the week, one person per household between the ages of 18-65 are allowed to go outside to buy groceries. This designated shopper will be assigned a weekday, and can only go outside on that day, according to a communique from the Bolivian state-news agency ABI, citing Anez.

Bolivia now has 39 cases of the coronavirus and no deaths, according to the health authorities.

10:30 p.m. ET, March 25, 2020

What's in the US $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus bill

The US Congress is expected to vote tonight on a $2 trillion stimulus bill to respond to the coronavirus pandemic.

The final draft of the bill, at 880 pages long, has just been sent out, and senators will vote soon, reports CNN congressional correspondent Manu Raju.

Here are some of the highlights of the bill:

  • Direct payments to individuals: According to an earlier draft of the bill, single Americans, married couples, and parents will receive direct payments. Payments would start to phase out for individuals with adjusted gross incomes of more than $75,000, and those making more than $99,000 would not qualify at all.
  • Student loan payments suspended: The Department of Education would suspend payments on student loan borrowers without penalty through September 30.
  • Historic boost for unemployment benefits: The federal government would give jobless workers an extra $600 a week for four months on top of their state benefits.
  • $500 billion lending program: The Treasury Department can provide $500 billion in loans, loan guarantees and investments to businesses, states and municipalities.
  • Airlines and airports: The package includes $32 billion in grants for wages and benefits to the decimated airline industry.
  • Hospitals get billions: The package would provide about $117 billion for hospitals, according to an estimate from the American Hospital Association, which called it an important first step.
  • Contractors and gig workers: Independent contractors and so-called gig workers will be eligible to receive federal aid.

The bill also includes a range of other measures, like protection against eviction, funding for food assistance, funds for refugees and diplomatic programs, and more.

Read more here:

10:19 p.m. ET, March 25, 2020

The virus could be more widespread in the US, and we need more testing, expert says

From CNN's Jen Christensen

The US hasn't conducted enough tests to know how widespread the coronavirus is, warned Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious diseases professor at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

While there are coronavirus "hot spots” and “warm spots” in the country, there are also other spots such as Nashville that are “warming up,” he told CNN.

“I’m sure that this virus is just about everywhere -- but how dense it is, how widespread it is, we don’t know yet," Schnaffer said. "We haven’t tested sufficiently. If we could test a lot more, we would have a much better idea of how distributed this virus is.”

He added that there needs to be much more testing for both public health and clinical reasons -- not to mention, there is real anxiety among the public, who want to know if they pose a risk to others.

“They are concerned for their own families, and other people they come in contact with,” Schaffner said. “And of course, this expectation has been raised, because people have been told, ‘if you want to test, you can get it.’"

10:06 p.m. ET, March 25, 2020

All Mormon temples are closing worldwide

A closed sign is shown at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Bountiful Temple Tuesday, March 24, in Bountiful, Utah.
A closed sign is shown at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Bountiful Temple Tuesday, March 24, in Bountiful, Utah. Rick Bowmer/AP

All Mormon temples worldwide are closing due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, informally known as the Mormon Church, announced the closures in a statement on Wednesday.

"After careful and prayerful consideration, and with a desire to be responsible global citizens, we have decided to suspend all temple activity Churchwide at the end of the day on March 25, 2020. This is a temporary adjustment, and we look forward to the day when the temples will reopen," the statement said.

"Please be assured of our sincere love and appreciation for your devotion and faith."

The church is based in the United States, but has 16.3 members worldwide, according to its website.