March 31 coronavirus news

By Joshua Berlinger, Christopher Johnson and Angela Dewan, CNN

Updated 2:29 AM ET, Thu April 1, 2021
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12:35 p.m. ET, March 31, 2021

CDC releases new Covid-19 guidance for adult day service centers

From CNN's Maegan Vazquez

The director of the US Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, announced on Wednesday that the CDC is releasing new Covid-19 guidance for adult day service centers. 

“These centers provide important social and health services to community-dwelling adults age 65 and older, as well as to adults any age living with disability,” Walensky said during a White House coronavirus press briefing.

“We know these populations are at high risk for severe Covid-19 disease and this guidance will help center administrators and staff protect themselves and adults receiving their services by promoting and engaging in preventative behaviors that reduce Covid-19 spread and help maintain healthy operations and environments in these facilities," she added.

The guidance promotes a range of preventative behaviors and facility practices in adult day services settings, including guidelines on hygiene, building operations, shared spaces and transport. 

Here's what the guidance said: 

  • The CDC suggests limiting nonessential services and visitors, like volunteers and family members.
  • It encourages health screenings, signage encouraging the practice of preventative measures like wearing a mask and social distancing, modifying facilities’ layouts, and isolating staff and participants with symptoms or who may have had close contact with someone with Covid.
  • It also offers a protocol for isolating and transporting an individual with symptoms, as well as guidance on notifying health officials and close contact.
  • A section in the guidelines related to centers’ activities suggests staggering activities and meals, as well as creating pods for center participants.
  • Another section related to food and dining suggests serving individually plated meals or grab and go meals instead of self-serve options.
12:13 p.m. ET, March 31, 2021

White House pleads with governors and mayors to maintain or reinstate mask mandates to "save lives"

From CNN's Kate Sullivan

A sign hangs outside of Chipotle on March 3.
A sign hangs outside of Chipotle on March 3. Montinique Monroe/Getty Images

The White House's senior Covid-19 response adviser, Andy Slavitt, on Wednesday urged governors, mayors and local leaders to listen to President Biden and maintain or reinstate mask mandates to “save lives.” 

“We need to keep case numbers down so we can save lives and give people the chance to get vaccinated in April, May and June so we can enter the summer on the strongest footing possible,” Slavitt said at a White House Covid-19 briefing. 

“Now in the weeks ahead, that it will take to get everyone vaccinated for all of this effort, we need a simple thing of every governor, mayor and local leader, and that is to heed what the President is asking in return, simply to maintain or to reinstate mask mandates," he continued.

“Together we can win this race and save lives,” Slavitt said. 

On Monday, Biden called for mask mandates to be maintained or reinstated across the country in order to keep Covid-19 cases down. “Please. This is not politics,” the President said.  

Biden’s comments came after Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said in a virtual White House briefing on Monday that she had a feeling of "impending doom" as Covid-19 were on the rise again.

“Right now, I'm scared,” Walensky said, sounding the alarm.

12:06 p.m. ET, March 31, 2021

Austria likely to order 1 million Sputnik V vaccines "as early as next week"

From CNN's Nadine Schmidt

Vials of the Russian Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine are seen in Gaza City on March 25.
Vials of the Russian Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine are seen in Gaza City on March 25. Mohammed Abed/AFP/Getty Images

Austria is likely to order one million doses of Russia's Sputnik V vaccine ''as early as next week,'' the office of Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said in a statement to CNN Wednesday. 

"We are in the final metres and a Sputnik order can probably be placed as early as next week," Kurz said in the statement, after he met with Russian Ambassador to Austria , Dmitrii Liubinski, in Vienna.

Austria is hoping to make up for shortfalls in other vaccines ordered through the European Union, particularly from Astra-Zeneca.

''I am very happy about the binding delivery commitment. If we order Sputnik, we will still receive 300,000 doses in April; 500,000 doses in May; and 200,000 doses in early June. A very prompt delivery would therefore be possible here,'' Kurz said. But the two countries ''are still in the detailed coordination stage'' after weeks of discussions, he added. A data room has been set up and negotiations are ongoing between Austria's health ministry and the procurator-fiscal with the Russian side.

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) is currently reviewing an application for approval of Sputnik V in the EU. 

Member states of the European Union have the authority to approve vaccines unilaterally, even if EMA has yet to authorize.

 

11:57 a.m. ET, March 31, 2021

White House announces 3 more mass vaccination sites

From CNN's Betsy Klein

White House
White House

The White House on Wednesday announced the addition of three new federally-supported mass vaccination sites, which will be located in Tennessee, Wisconsin and Maryland, as part of the Biden administration’s ongoing efforts to address vaccine distribution inequity. 

“The first is in Memphis, Tennessee, at the Pipkin Building at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium. The second is in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, at the Wisconsin Center. And the third is in Greenbelt, Maryland, at the Greenbelt metro station,” White House senior Covid-19 adviser Andy Slavitt said Wednesday. 

Each site will be capable of administering 3,000 vaccine doses per day, and will open next week, per Slavitt. 

There are now 30 total federally-supported mass vaccination centers, 25 of which are now fully operational, according to Slavitt. The White House announced new sites in Missouri and Indiana earlier this week, and previously-announced sites in Massachusetts, New Jersey, Virginia and Washington state are now fully operational. 

11:35 a.m. ET, March 31, 2021

Iraq reports highest number of daily Covid-19 cases since start of pandemic

From CNN's Aqeel Najim

On Wednesday, Iraq's Ministry of Health reported at least 6,664 Covid-19 cases in the last 24 hours. This is the highest number of coronavirus cases since the start of pandemic,

The total number of Covid-19 cases in Iraq is now 850,924.

The ministry reported 37 new coronavirus related deaths, bringing the total number of recorded deaths in Iraq to 14,323 since the start of the pandemic.

There are currently 77,041 Covid-19 patients hospitalized across the county, among them 468 cases in intensive care units.

11:40 a.m. ET, March 31, 2021

Covid-19 was third leading cause of death in US last year, CDC confirms in early data

From CNN's Jacqueline Howard

Covid-19 was the third leading cause of death in the United States last year, after heart disease and cancer, according to provisional data released on Wednesday by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

The CDC found the US death rate increased by 15.9% between 2019 and 2020. 

Early data showed that the top 10 leading causes of death in 2020 were:

  1. Heart disease
  2. Cancer
  3. Covid-19
  4. Unintentional injury
  5. Stroke
  6. Chronic lower respiratory disease
  7. Alzheimer's disease
  8. Diabetes
  9. Influenza and pneumonia
  10. Kidney disease

Researchers at the National Center for Health Statistics analyzed death certificate data from the National Vital Statistics System, taking a close look at deaths among US residents between January and December of 2020.

"COVID-19 was the third leading underlying cause of death in 2020, replacing suicide as one of the top 10 leading causes of death," the researchers wrote in the report. Suicide previously was the tenth leading cause of death but was bumped off the list for 2020 as deaths due to Covid-19 climbed. 

The researchers report found that about 3.36 million deaths occurred last year. Covid-19 was reported as the underlying cause or a contributing cause of death for nearly 378,000 – or about 11.3% – of those deaths. The data showed that heart disease caused 690,882 deaths and cancer caused 598,932 deaths.

The data also showed that, overall, death rates were highest among the Black and Native American or Alaska Native communities, adults aged 85 and older and men. The Covid-19 death rate specifically was highest among Hispanics, according to the CDC report.

The data is provisional – and so numbers and death rates might change as additional information is received. Since investigating causes of death takes time, final data for a given year are typically published about 11 months after the end of the calendar year.

In January, CDC statisticians shared with CNN that Covid-19 was likely the third leading cause of death in the United States for last year.

Life expectancy in the United States also dropped a full year in the first half of 2020, according to a provisional report published by the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics in February. 

The report shows that US life expectancy fell to 77.8 years, back to what it was in 2006.

You can read the full report here.

Watch:

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.