March 31 coronavirus news

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3:46 p.m. ET, March 31, 2020

California unemployment climbs to 1.6 million people during pandemic

From CNN's Cheri Mossburg

A man takes a photo of a sign outside an Employment Development Department office in San Francisco on March 26.
A man takes a photo of a sign outside an Employment Development Department office in San Francisco on March 26. Jeff Chiu/AP

While Californians are under stay home orders and businesses are closed, about 1.6 million people have filed for unemployment, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced at a press conference today.

More than 150,000 people filed for unemployment on Monday alone, the governor said.

“We’re going to have to do more to meet this moment for employees and employers,” Newsom said.

Newsom promised more to come on how his administration is planning to help small businesses, noting “the small businesses are in our heart and mind.”

3:30 p.m. ET, March 31, 2020

Michigan is reporting 1,117 new coronavirus cases and 75 deaths

Michigan is reporting 1,117 additional Covid-19 cases and 75 additional deaths.

The state now has a total of 259 deaths and 7,615 cases, according to the state’s website.

3:38 p.m. ET, March 31, 2020

Portuguese airline suspends 90% of employees

From CNN’s Vasco Cotovio

TAP Air Portugal planes are parked at Humberto Delgado Airport in Lisbon on March 24.
TAP Air Portugal planes are parked at Humberto Delgado Airport in Lisbon on March 24. Pedro Fiuza/Xinhua/Getty Images

Portuguese airline TAP Air Portugal has temporarily laid off 9,000 employees — about roughly 90% of its workforce — grounding most of its operations to a halt, a spokesperson for the company told CNN on Tuesday.  

According to the spokesperson, 90% of the company’s 10,000 strong workforce will be suspended from work for a period of 30 days starting on April 2. Under a government-supported scheme, those workers will still continue to receive two-thirds of their salaries. The suspension can be extended after those 30 days. 

The remainder 10% of the workforce will continue to work with a 20% reduction of their working hours and pay, the spokesman also said. 

The airline’s operation will also be significantly cut short. Before the outbreak, TAP was flying more than 3,000 flights per week, but starting tomorrow, it will limit its operation to 5 flights a week, two to the Portuguese islands of Madeira, and three to the Portuguese Islands of Azores, the spokesman added. 

The company will also assist the Portuguese government in the repatriation of Portuguese citizens from abroad, as well as help with transportation of cargo and humanitarian efforts.

3:24 p.m. ET, March 31, 2020

There are nearly 7,000 coronavirus cases in California

From CNN's Cheri Mossburg

The number of Covid-19 cases in California is nearing 7,000, with 150 deaths as a result of the disease.

To date, at least 6,932 people have been infected, according to Gov. Gavin Newsom.

Of those, about 17% are hospitalized. The number of people in intensive care units, 657, has increased by 10% since yesterday, the governor said.

These current numbers represent a doubling in the number of people hospitalized in just the past five days, Newsom emphasized, and a tripling of those in the ICU.

“Stay home. Take this seriously,” the governor tweeted.
3:22 p.m. ET, March 31, 2020

NYC mayor orders investigation into Amazon after it fired worker who led warehouse walkout

From CNN's Elizabeth Hartfield

The exterior of Amazon's Staten Island warehouse on Tuesday, March 31.
The exterior of Amazon's Staten Island warehouse on Tuesday, March 31. Michael Nagle/Bloomberg/Getty Images

Mayor Bill de Blasio said he has ordered New York City's Commission on Human Rights to investigate Amazon regarding the firing of an Amazon worker who organized a walkout on Monday.

Amazon confirmed the firing Monday night, telling CNN in a statement that the employee, Christian Smalls, was supposed to be under quarantine. 

"Mr. Smalls was found to have had close contact with a diagnosed associate with a confirmed case of COVID-19 and was asked to remain home with pay for 14 days, which is a measure we're taking at sites around the world," said Amazon spokesperson Kristen Kish. "Despite that instruction to stay home with pay, he came onsite today, March 30, putting the teams at risk."

The firing follows the protest partly organized by Smalls, who had called on Amazon to shut down the Staten Island facility for deep cleaning after multiple cases of the coronavirus emerged there.

In an interview on Sunday, Smalls told CNN he had spent the past week trying to persuade senior warehouse officials to close the building and sterilize it, but to no avail.

3:07 p.m. ET, March 31, 2020

There are now at least 178,322 coronavirus cases in the US

According to CNN Health's tally of US cases that are detected and tested in the United States through US public health systems, there are at least 178,322 cases of coronavirus in the US. At least 3,561 people have died in the US from coronavirus. 

The total includes cases from all 50 states, the District of Columbia and other US territories, as well as all repatriated cases. Hawaii and Wyoming are not reporting a death from coronavirus. 

3:06 p.m. ET, March 31, 2020

Hundreds of medical professionals and ambulances coming to New York City

From CNN's Elizabeth Hartfield

Mayor Bill de Blasio
Mayor Bill de Blasio NYC Media

In response to the record number of 911 calls that have been reported in New York City, there will be approximately 500 more emergency medical technicians and paramedics coming into the city, Mayor Bill de Blasio said.

So far, 270 of these professionals are already in New York, de Blasio said.

Additionally, the mayor’s office formally announced Tuesday morning, the Federal Emergency Management Agency is sending 250 more ambulances to the city. So far, 135 of those ambulances are already here, de Blasio said.

More nurses are also coming in to help the cities hospitals this week, de Blasio said.

There are 1,000 nurses that NYC Health and Hospitals has coming in “very soon,” de Blasio said, in addition to the 1,000 that have been previously announced by his office last week, for a grant total of 2,000 nurses.

2:56 p.m. ET, March 31, 2020

US Department of Defense still hasn't been told where to send its ventilator stockpile

From CNN's Barbara Starr and Michael Conte:

Despite having committed to transferring 2,000 ventilators in military stocks to the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Department of Health and Human Services to fight the coronavirus, none of the ventilators have been shipped by the Department of Defense because the agencies have not asked for them or provided a shipping location, the Pentagon’s top logistics official said Tuesday.

In order to ship the badly needed equipment, the Defense Department has to have a location from civilian authorities who have to decide where the items are most needed.

“There was discussion with HHS on where to send them. And then they said hey wait, we’re trying to take a look at the demand that’s required, and so we were asked to just wait while there was just some sorting through on that. And I won’t speak on behalf of them, but we were in a position to provide 2,000,” said Lt General Giovanni Tuck.

Tuck said he had no details on the HHS decisions, but added “we haven’t provided any, because as of last night, we were asked to just hold on the ones that we have, and then we will push them when they’re ready for them.”

Tuck emphasized there are 1,000 ventilators now fully ready to be immediately shipped as soon as the Pentagon gets a destination of where to send them. The other 1,000 can also be assembled and shipped within days of getting the order he indicated.           

Civilian Pentagon officials have publicly said they were making ventilators and five million N-95 respirator masks available. However, so far only 1.5 million masks have been shipped by DoD. Another 500,000 are to be shipped within days. But HHS and FEMA have given DoD no indication of when or where they precisely want the other 3 million items to go.   

2:50 p.m. ET, March 31, 2020

Makeshift coronavirus hospital will open at New York City tennis center

 

The Billie Jean King Tennis Center in Queens, New York, will soon house 350 hospital beds, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said.

The makeshift hospital facility will take patients who have tested positive for Covid-19 but do not need ICU care from Elmhurst Hospital in order to relieve some of the pressure from the hospital, de Blasio said. It should be operational next week.

Some context: Elmhurst Hospital has been at the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak.

Images from the besieged hospital — only seven miles from where President Trump was raised in Jamaica Estates — had a sobering effect on the President this week as he was mulling options for returning Americans to work, people familiar with the matter said.