March 31 coronavirus news

By Joshua Berlinger, Christopher Johnson and Angela Dewan, CNN

Updated 2:29 AM ET, Thu April 1, 2021
27 Posts
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11:19 a.m. ET, March 31, 2021

Pfizer says it has met its end-of-March commitment of 120 million doses ready to ship to US

From CNN's Amanda Sealy

Rocky Mountain Regional VA Medical Center associate chief of pharmacy operations Terrence Wong opens a box containing a shipment of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine on December 15, 2020 in Aurora, Colorado.
Rocky Mountain Regional VA Medical Center associate chief of pharmacy operations Terrence Wong opens a box containing a shipment of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine on December 15, 2020 in Aurora, Colorado. Michael Ciaglo/Getty Images

Pfizer has met its commitment to have 120 million doses of its Covid-19 vaccine released and ready for shipment to the US by the end of March, the company said on Wednesday.

The company confirms it remains on track for its May and July goals as well.

At the end of February, Pfizer’s Chief Business Officer John Young’s written testimony to the United States House Committee on Energy and Commerce Oversight and Investigations said:

"We are on track to make 120 million doses available for shipment by the end of March and an additional 80 million doses by the end of May. And, we anticipate all 300 million contracted doses will be made available for shipment by the end of July, enabling the vaccination of up to 150 million Americans." 

So far, Pfizer says it has shipped more than 100 million doses to the US.

As of Wednesday, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data showed that more than 75 million doses of Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine have been administered in the US and more than 95 million doses have been delivered.

10:38 a.m. ET, March 31, 2021

New York City has administered 4 million Covid-19 vaccinations, mayor says

From CNN's Kristina Sgueglia

A pharmacist prepares the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine in New York on March 26.
A pharmacist prepares the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine in New York on March 26. Spencer Platt/Getty Images

New York City has surpassed 4 million Covid-19 vaccination doses administered, Mayor Bill de Blasio said. That's more than the entire population of Los Angeles, he added.

“Because we’re New Yorkers sometimes we hear big numbers and it kinda just goes right by us because we’re so used to doing everything big around here, think about that though, as many doses given as the total population of LA,” the mayor said.

De Blasio said “everything’s clicking,” with more vaccination sites coming online constantly. However he cautioned that the city still needed vaccine supply to make it all work.

10:25 a.m. ET, March 31, 2021

US watchdog calls for greater transparency on coronavirus data from government agencies

From CNN’s Liz Stark

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued sweeping new recommendations to multiple government agencies Wednesday in a push for greater transparency and access to pandemic-related data.

GAO calls on the Department of Health and Human Services and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to collect specific data on vaccinations in nursing homes and make the data publicly available. The report also recommends HHS require nursing homes offer Covid vaccines to residents and staff and called for the agency to centralize its pandemic data on a single website. 

CNN is reaching out to the department for comment.  

“We want the government’s pandemic relief programs to be as effective and transparent as possible, and implementing our recommendations can greatly improve the federal response,” Gene L. Dodaro, Comptroller General of the United States and head of the GAO, said in a statement. “Our recommendations are focused on improving public health and economic recovery efforts and reducing fraud and overpayments.”

The watchdog further recommends that HHS work to ensure “more complete” reporting of race and ethnicity information for Covid vaccine recipients, pointing to how HHS found that data collected from states on race and ethnicity were missing for nearly half of those who were vaccinated.

“Without complete information on the race and ethnicity of persons who have received COVID-19 vaccines, HHS may have difficulty determining whether vaccines are distributed equitably to communities of color who have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19,” the report warns.

The new report also advises the Small Business Administration to address potential fraud risks in its programs. This comes after the Justice Department announced last week that federal investigators have identified more than half a billion dollars in fraud and charged 474 people with crimes related to theft of money from US Covid relief programs.

Other recommendations include calling on the Department of Education to collect information on school districts’ finances related to their use of federal Covid-relief funds, as well as instructing the Agriculture Department to provide additional context for its data on federal nutrition assistance programs.

10:31 a.m. ET, March 31, 2021

Cuba reports record number of Covid-19 cases

From CNN's Patrick Oppmann

Cuba’s health ministry reported 1,051 new Covid-19 cases on Wednesday, a record high number for the island nation.

The newly reported numbers bring the total number of coronavirus cases in Cuba to 74,212 since the pandemic began.

The ministry also reported three Covid-19 deaths, bringing the total number of deaths to 421.

In March, Cuba increased vaccinations with its homegrown vaccine candidates to try and bring transmission under control.

For much of 2020, Cuba was able to keep the spread of the pandemic under control but a bungled reopening to international travelers in December led to a surge in cases.

10:17 a.m. ET, March 31, 2021

German city of Hamburg orders overnight curfew to control spread of coronavirus

From CNN's Stephanie Halasz

Hamburg Mayor Peter Tschentscher holds a press conference in Hamburg, Germany, on March 31.
Hamburg Mayor Peter Tschentscher holds a press conference in Hamburg, Germany, on March 31. Georg Wendt/picture alliance/Getty Images

The German city state of Hamburg has ordered further restrictions in an attempt to bring the coronavirus spread under control.

Hamburg Mayor Peter Tschentscher announced a curfew from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. local time, starting Friday. Shops need to close by 9 p.m. local, he said.

Schools will partly keep in-school education open. However, kindergartens will once again only be open for those with urgent social needs, for example parents who are key workers or those who have a home situation which requires children to be at kindergarten, as well as for single parents.

10:01 a.m. ET, March 31, 2021

Delta will resume selling middle seats on May 1 as US travel industry retires many pandemic-era practices

From CNN’s Pete Muntean

A passenger travels on a Delta Air Lines flight from Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta on February 3.
A passenger travels on a Delta Air Lines flight from Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta on February 3. Charlie Riedel/AP

Delta Air Lines says it will offer for sale every seat on its flights starting May 1. The new announcement marks the end of pandemic-era social distancing precautions on board major US airlines. Delta was the last major carrier to cap capacity on its flights.

In a statement, Delta says it feels empowered to officially end its policy because of more people getting vaccinated against coronavirus.

Delta CEO Ed Bastian said 65% of those who flew on the airline in 2019 anticipate having at least dose of the vaccine by May 1.  

Other major US airlines that had blocked middle seats have already done away with the practice:

  • Southwest Airlines ended it last December, ahead of the winter holiday travel season. 
  • JetBlue Airways began expanding capacity last December and was fully selling its cabins by January. 
  • American Airlines lifted capacity limits last summer, and United Airlines did not set capacity limits. 

The announcement means the airline will let the policy expire on April 30 as scheduled. It had previously repeatedly extended the policy for months-long increments during the pandemic. 

10:07 a.m. ET, March 31, 2021

AstraZeneca vaccine safe and effective, WHO official reiterates after Germany decision 

From CNN’s Chloé Adams

A general practitioner administers to a patient the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine in Deisenhofen, Germany, on March 31.
A general practitioner administers to a patient the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine in Deisenhofen, Germany, on March 31. Lennart Preiss/AFP/Getty Images

The benefit-risk assessment for the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine still weighs very heavily in favor of its use, the head of the World Health Organization's Department of Immunization, Vaccines and Biologicals, reiterated on Wednesday.

Speaking during a news briefing on the biannual meeting of the World Health Organization (WHO) Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization (SAGE), Kate O’Brien said “it is a safe vaccine” when asked about Germany’s decision on who to administer the vaccine to.

On Tuesday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the country will only administer the AstraZeneca vaccine to people age 60 and above. The move followed reports of rare blood clots in the brains of 31 people following the first dose since the shots started being administered in the country. 

“With the broad use of this, we anticipated that there might have been rare events that would be identified that may be associated with the vaccine,” she added.

O’Brien said WHO supports decisions that any individual country may take, and that each country should "chart a cours" about how they will use the products available to them to fight Covid-19.

“At this point, the major source of vaccine is the AstraZeneca vaccine. And what we're seeing from countries, remember there are over 190 countries or economies that are in the COVAX facility, is high demand for the AstraZeneca product and deploying that product,” she said.

The chair of WHO’s Strategic Advisory Group of Experts (SAGE) on Immunization, Alejandro Cravioto, added the safety systems in place were working well. 

“What we have asked every country is to have a system in place to be able to detect these problems, there should be a system in place to be able to follow up any of these adverse effects. And so the idea of bringing them up, publicly, is precisely so that everybody is aware that these are signals.”

9:48 a.m. ET, March 31, 2021

Spain is seeing a clear and slow increase in Covid-19 cases, health minister warns

 From CNNs Claudia Rebaza and Al Goodman

Spain’s Health Minister Carolina Darias announced the country is seeing a slow increase in the number of Covid-19 cases, highlighting the presence of the UK variant in Spain’s regions. 

“We are seeing an increasing trend in 12 regions while four report descending number of cases and three remain stable,” she said during a news conference in Valladolid where she was visiting the regional health department chief.

“This context is concerning as we have seen the spread of the UK variant,” she said.

“On national average we estimate the prevalence of this variant is from 60 to 70%, but in some regions it can reach above 80%” 

But Darias did share some good news: The country is expecting arrival of more than one million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine Thursday. 

“We are at a crucial moment, we see a slow increase with an important prevalence of the British variant,” Darias added.

9:24 a.m. ET, March 31, 2021

Pfizer will produce ready-to-use Covid-19 vaccine in second half of 2021, executive says

From CNN Health’s Amanda Sealy

Pfizer is planning to produce a new formulation of its Covid-19 vaccine that will no longer require a diluent in the second half of 2021, says Mike McDermott, Pfizer’s president of global supply.

Currently, Pfizer’s vaccine comes in a concentrated formula that requires the addition of a saline diluent before it is administered. The new formulation would eliminate this step.

“It's an improvement that we've made along the way that we think will help out for administration of the vaccine,” McDermott told CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

Pfizer will be required to submit an amendment of its current emergency use authorization to the US Food and Drug Administration before it is able to begin manufacturing this new formulation.