Coronavirus cases top 784,000 globally

By Julia Hollingsworth, Adam Renton and Joshua Berlinger, CNN

Updated 9:48 p.m. ET, March 31, 2020
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8:52 a.m. ET, March 31, 2020

Indonesia declares public health emergency over coronavirus pandemic

From Eric Cheung in Hong Kong

Indonesian President Joko Widodo, left, inspects medical equipment at a hospital in Jakarta, Indonesia, on March 23.
Indonesian President Joko Widodo, left, inspects medical equipment at a hospital in Jakarta, Indonesia, on March 23. Hafidz Mubarak A/Pool/AP

Indonesian President Joko Widodo declared a national public health emergency today during the novel coronavirus pandemic.

"To overcome the impact of the outbreak, I have decided in a cabinet meeting that the option we chose was a large-scale social restriction," he said during a news conference.

The country's Ministry of Health will coordinate with regional leaders to implement social distancing measures, according to state-run Antara News Agency.

Widodo also announced that all Indonesian citizens who have recently traveled home from abroad will be required to undergo a 14-day period of self-isolation, Antara reported.

"If they exhibit no symptoms (of coronavirus), they can return to their hometowns," he said. "Shortly after arriving in their hometowns, they must maintain high discipline to conduct self-isolation."

Earlier today, Indonesia banned most foreign visitors from entering or transiting through the country.

8:57 a.m. ET, March 31, 2020

White House may tweak the federal coronavirus guidelines today

From CNN's Kaitlan Collins

Medical workers outside at Elmhurst Hospital Center in New York City on March 26. Images from the situation at the hospital reportedly played a major role in Trump's decision to keep federal guidelines in place.
Medical workers outside at Elmhurst Hospital Center in New York City on March 26. Images from the situation at the hospital reportedly played a major role in Trump's decision to keep federal guidelines in place. Angela Weiss/AFP/Getty Images

The White House is expected to reissue federal coronavirus guidelines sometime today, which may feature some slight adjustments, according to an administration official. 

Trump announced Sunday that he would extend the federal guidelines another month.

There's been an internal debate over whether to ease up on the social distancing efforts, and some aides recommended the President only extend them another 15 days. However, health advisers argued that a month was necessary. 

Trump told aides it would be better to ease the guidelines earlier than expected rather than have to extend them yet again. 

The bleak images from Elmhurst Hospital played a major role in Trump's decision to keep the guidelines in place. Two officials said polling that showed the public largely favored keeping the guidelines intact also played a role.

Some officials don't trust the models the President is being shown. This is a pretty prevalent line of thinking inside the West Wing. Several aides have dismissed them, believing they are overblown and that past projections have been wrong. 

Officials from the task force are expected to preview those models at some point today, though it's not clear when or how yet. 

8:49 a.m. ET, March 31, 2020

Rate of increase of new coronavirus cases appears to be slowing in New York, CNN count shows

A pedestrian crosses a sparsely populated street in New York's Times Square on Sunday, March 29.
A pedestrian crosses a sparsely populated street in New York's Times Square on Sunday, March 29. Mary Altaffer/AP

While New York state still leads the nation — by far — in growing numbers of Covid-19 cases and deaths, the rate of daily increases did appear to slow a bit in the last seven days

An analysis of CNN's count shows that the state’s average rate of day-over-day increase for the last seven days was 17% — compared to 58% for the previous seven-day period.

This is in line with what New York Governor Andrew Cuomo suggested in a news conference Monday.

"There is no doubt that the number is still increasing. There is no doubt that rate has slowed," Cuomo said. "We had a doubling of cases every two days, then the doubling of three days and doubling of four days and every five days and we now have a doubling of cases every six days."

It is too early to definitively pinpoint what's behind the latest numbers trend, though New York is just over one week into its "PAUSE" program, an executive order outlining major restrictions and other containment measures.

It is also important to note that increased testing can impact these numbers. While more testing often leads to higher case totals, it can also lead to a backlog of test results and a delay in the true number.

When it comes to death rate reports, CNN's count shows that New York state had an average daily increase of 34% for the last seven days, compared to 61% for the previous week. But death rate increases are much harder to interpret, since patients die over longer periods of time.

CNN's tally is based on daily updates obtained from state and local health authorities.

8:55 a.m. ET, March 31, 2020

Airlines due to refund $35 billion in unused tickets this quarter

From CNN's Greg Wallace

A nearly empty view of Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport is seen on March 29, in Arlington, Virginia.
A nearly empty view of Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport is seen on March 29, in Arlington, Virginia. Alex Edelman/AFP/Getty Images

Airline passengers around the world are due $35 billion in ticket refunds this quarter, according the International Air Transport Association, which represents airlines globally. 

That sum, due to the drop in airline travel linked to the coronavirus, is “an immense amount of money to refund,” the group’s head, Alexandre de Juniac, told reporters on Tuesday. 

IATA said it is asking governments to change the rules to allow airlines to make more refunds in the form of vouchers rather than cash. He said the cases where airlines are able to provide passengers a voucher for future travel rather than a refund is helpful because it can “preserve the cash of the airline.” 

“We are totally conscious of the inconvenience it might represent for the passengers, but it is for us about our survival as we have this enormous cash problem in front of us,” de Juniac said. 

The group’s latest projections are for a worldwide loss of $39 billion in this quarter alone across the industry, versus a profit of $7 billion in the same time frame last year. Last week, it predicted $252 billion in industry-wide losses due to the coronavirus. 

WATCH:

8:39 a.m. ET, March 31, 2020

France gives 4 billion Euros to public health agency for masks and ventilators

From CNN's Pierre-Eliott Buet

French President Emmanuel Macron, left, visits the Kolmi-Hopen protective face masks factory in Saint-Barthelemy-d'Anjou, France, on March 31.
French President Emmanuel Macron, left, visits the Kolmi-Hopen protective face masks factory in Saint-Barthelemy-d'Anjou, France, on March 31. Loic Venance/Pool/AFP/Getty Images

French President Emmanuel Macron has promised to give 4 billion Euros to Sante Publique France, a public health agency, to purchase masks and ventilators.

Macron, speaking at a mask production factory in Saint Barthélemy d’Anjou, went on to stress the importance of production of masks in France.

He said “our priority is to produce more in France,” adding that “the aim is by the end of the year we will have achieved full independence” in mask production.

The ramping up of mask production will allow France to raise capacity from 3.3 million masks a week to 15 million by the end of April. France has already placed an order of 1 billion masks from China. 

8:40 a.m. ET, March 31, 2020

US health officials will put out new mask recommendations "if the guidance warrants"

From CNN's Jacqueline Howard

US Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams attends a coronavirus task force briefing at the White House on March 22.
US Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams attends a coronavirus task force briefing at the White House on March 22. Patrick Semansky/AP

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention continues to monitor data around the coronavirus pandemic and could put out new recommendations on the use of face masks — if the guidance warrants, US Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams said during an appearance on "Fox & Friends" today.

As of now, Adams said there is not enough data to recommend that the public wear masks.

"There may be a day when we change our recommendations — particularly for areas that have large spread going on about wearing cotton masks — but again, the data's not there yet," Adams said. "We're continuing to follow it. CDC's looking at it and will put out new recommendations if the guidance warrants."

Currently, the World Health Organization and CDC both recommend to wear masks only if you are sick or are caring for someone who is sick.

"What the World Health Organization and the CDC have reaffirmed in the last few days is that they do not recommend the general public wear masks. Here's why: On an individual level, there was a study in 2015 looking at medical students -- and medical students wearing surgical masks touch their face on average 23 times," Adams said.

Earlier this month, Adams urged Americans to stop buying masks, tweeting "They are NOT effective in preventing general public from catching #Coronavirus, but if healthcare providers can't get them to care for sick patients, it puts them and our communities at risk!"

Today, Adams reiterated that masks need to be saved for health care workers.

When it was brought up that masks are widely used in China, Adams responded, "They have a culture there of wearing masks and everyone already has one and they're more accustomed to wearing them without touching their faces."

"We know a major way that you can get respiratory diseases like coronaviruses is by touching a surface and then touching your face," Adams added. "So wearing a mask improperly can actually increase your risk of getting disease."  

WATCH:

8:24 a.m. ET, March 31, 2020

Panama's president announces separate quarantine days for men and women

From CNN's Jack Guy

A woman wearing a face mask as a precautionary measure against the spread the coronavirus walks in downtown Panama City on March 17.
A woman wearing a face mask as a precautionary measure against the spread the coronavirus walks in downtown Panama City on March 17. Luis Acosta/AFP/Getty Images

Panama's President Nito Cortizo has announced that men and women will only be able to leave their homes on separate days as part of the country's measures to fight coronavirus.

The new restrictions mean women can go outside on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, while men will be allowed out on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, Cortizo posted on Twitter on Monday.

"On Sundays, everyone will have to stay at home," he added.

8:17 a.m. ET, March 31, 2020

China to begin reporting asymptomatic cases in its daily tally

From CNN’s Steven Jiang in Beijing

Workers record information on inbound passengers at a coronavirus screening checkpoint in Shanghai, China, on March 19.
Workers record information on inbound passengers at a coronavirus screening checkpoint in Shanghai, China, on March 19. Yin Liqin/China News Service/Getty Images

Chinese health authorities will include asymptomatic cases of the novel coronavirus in their official count starting Wednesday, according to an announcement on Tuesday.

The move comes amid growing public concern over asymptomatic cases, of which 1,541 were under medical observation in China by the end of Monday, according to the National Health Commission (NHC). This includes including 205 cases imported from overseas.

Officials will also further tighten screening and quarantine rules targeting asymptomatic cases -- defined as people who have tested positive for the virus without displaying any symptoms -- said Chang Jile, a senior official with the NHC, at a press conference in Wuhan.

Until now, asymptomatic cases have not been counted as confirmed cases under Chinese government guidelines.

Asymptomatic cases – as well as their close contacts – will be isolated for 14 days immediately upon discovery.

Their quarantine will only be lifted after they twice test negative for coronavirus, in tests administered 24 hours apart. If they develop symptoms during isolation, they will become confirmed cases and undergo treatment at designated hospitals.

On Monday, a taskforce on the virus chaired by Premier Li Keqiang, the country’s deputy leader, urged “placing priority on asymptomatic cases, from detection, contact tracing, to isolation and treatment, in order to lock in previous gains and plug potential loopholes in the containment,” according to a government statement.

A woman in Henan province in central China was infected with the deadly virus last week after coming in contact with a friend, a local doctor who was later identified as an asymptomatic case.

As the Chinese government prepares to lift lockdown measures at the original epicenter of the pandemic, the Henan story has stirred intense interest and anxiety over how infectious asymptomatic carriers are, and whether the authorities have been transparent enough in reporting such cases.

8:00 a.m. ET, March 31, 2020

Nuns self-isolate in Italian care home to look after elderly residents

From CNN's Valentina di Donato in Rome

Six Carmelite nuns have isolated themselves inside a care home in the Italian town of Castel del Monte, in order to look after the elderly residents who live there.

"We voluntarily chose to stay because they need us," Madre Rocio, one of the nuns, told CNN. "Like this, we are also close to God by helping who can't help themselves."

Carmelite nuns are a contemplative order, which means they are devoted to prayer rather than works, but this group is semi-cloistered, which means they are allowed to go outside.

The six nuns, who are originally from Mexico, began helping out in the retirement home 15 years ago.

The nuns decided to stay and look after their elderly charges in isolation.
The nuns decided to stay and look after their elderly charges in isolation. Courtesy Madre Rocio

While the Italian government has imposed a national mandatory quarantine, little has changed for the Carmelites of Castel del Monte.

"We have not had much need to go out, thank God the municipality brings us everything in this period of quarantine," said Madre Rocio. "Now that we are required to stay inside by the government, we are closer even to who we assist."

Madre Rocio described how the nuns eat and play cards with the elderly residents of the home.

The town of Castel del Monte, in the mountains of Abruzzo, has welcomed dozens of refugees, and today has a population of 449, including 115 people who originally hail from 25 different countries. 

The town featured in a George Clooney movie, "The American."
The town featured in a George Clooney movie, "The American." Courtesy Municipality of Castel del Monte