March 29 coronavirus news

By Ben Westcott, Jenni Marsh, Amy Woodyatt and Amir Vera, CNN

Updated 9:57 p.m. ET, March 29, 2020
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8:36 p.m. ET, March 29, 2020

New Orleans convention center to be converted to hospital, governor says

From CNN’s Melissa Alonso 

Workers convert the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center into a temporary hospital on Friday, March 27, in New Orleans, Louisiana.
Workers convert the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center into a temporary hospital on Friday, March 27, in New Orleans, Louisiana. David Grunfeld/The Advocate/AP

New hospital facilities in New Orleans will open no later than a week from Sunday, said Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards. 

The New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center will be converted into a hospital with a 1,000-bed capacity for coronavirus patients. The patients "are not going to be fragile," will not need ventilators and will be housed only for a short period of time.

5:26 p.m. ET, March 29, 2020

At least 650 NYC inmates have been released due to coronavirus concerns

From CNN’s Laura Ly

As of Saturday night, 650 New York City inmates have been released due to coronavirus concerns, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Sunday.

De Blasio has previously said that NYC’s inmate population was approximately 5,000 inmates. CNN has previously reported that those eligible for release are city inmates convicted of misdemeanors and nonviolent felonies, all with less than one year left on their sentence.

There are some inmates within that category with domestic violence or sexual offense charges that the city has determined they will not release at this time, according to de Blasio.

There has been a "significant reduction" in the city’s juvenile inmate population as well, de Blasio said.

5:15 p.m. ET, March 29, 2020

President Trump touts 'air bridge' initiative to bring supplies to New York

From CNN’s Nicky Robertson

President Donald Trump announced a new initiative Sunday called an "air bridge" to help bring supplies to New York.

The President said that a flight arrived this morning at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport with 2 million masks and gowns, more than 10 million gloves and 70,000 thermometers. He said that currently they are expecting 51 flights with supplies from other countries, though there will be "intercountry things" as well.

6:32 p.m. ET, March 29, 2020

Georgia to start enforcing social distancing at parks and lakes

From CNN's Hollie Silverman

The Georgia Department of Natural Resources will start enforcing the executive order limiting large gatherings in state parks and lakes across the state, a joint statement from Gov. Brian Kemp and DNR Commissioner Mark Williams said Sunday.

DNR employees will be patrolling bodies of water and campgrounds to enforce social distancing guidelines. If people are found gathering they will approach them and demand compliance, sometimes with bullhorns, the release said. 

The move comes after school and business closures along with stay-at-home orders have resulted in people heading to vacation homes, lakes, hiking trail and campgrounds throughout the state, according to the release.

Gatherings of more than 10 people are banned unless people are 6 feet apart. That order applies to all 159 counties in the state, the release said.

7:11 p.m. ET, March 29, 2020

At least 135,856 coronavirus cases in the US

From CNN's Shawn Nottingham

There are at least 135,856 cases of the novel coronavirus in the United States, according to CNN Health’s tally of cases detected and tested through US public health systems.

A total of 2,391 people have died in the United States from coronavirus. 

For the most up-to-date US numbers compiled by CNN, please check this map which automatically refreshes every 10 minutes:

4:36 p.m. ET, March 29, 2020

Nurse at Elmhurst Hospital in New York describes how quickly patients are deteriorating

From CNN’s Paul Murphy

Elmhurst Hospital in New York
Elmhurst Hospital in New York John Nacion/STAR MAX/IPx/AP

A nurse at Elmhurst Hospital in New York described to CNN how quickly patients are deteriorating in their hospital.

"It’s frightening because although they are sick, they appear stable," the nurse said. "Then right before your eyes they start to desaturate and in a few moments, they are gone." 

Desaturate refers to a patient's oxygen saturation levels dropping to unsafe and, in this case, fatal levels.

The nurse said they watched, completely helpless, with two doctors alongside, as patients died from coronavirus complications. 

"Even though you restart the heart, they cannot breathe and before you get a minute to process the life lost, they come and snatch the ventilator," the nurse said. "And (then) another patient is crashing."

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo addressed the stresses this particular hospital is experiencing during his daily press conference.

Last week, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said Elmhurst had been the hospital hit hardest by the surge in cases and more medical personnel were being sent there. CNN previously reported that 13 patients died at the hospital from coronavirus within 24 hours last week.

4:51 p.m. ET, March 29, 2020

Illinois governor says there's 'not enough capacity' at hospitals for surge

Hospitals in Illinois don't have enough capacity for anticipated surge numbers from coronavirus, Illinois Gov. J. B. Pritzker said in a press conference Sunday.

"There's not enough capacity today," Pritzker said.

He said the state is working diligently to build facilities and triage centers. National Guardsmen are helping to erect tents and create isolation areas in dozens of hospitals, Pritzker said.

Pritzker said the state is expected to see the peak of coronavirus cases in mid-April, according to studies, and officials are working to be prepared for the surge by that time.

5:24 p.m. ET, March 29, 2020

Country singer Joe Diffie dies of complications from coronavirus

From CNN’s Steve Forrest

Joe Diffie performs at Country Thunder Milwaukee in Twin Lakes, Wisconsin, in 2016.
Joe Diffie performs at Country Thunder Milwaukee in Twin Lakes, Wisconsin, in 2016. Timothy Hiatt/Getty Images

Grammy Award-winning country singer Joe Diffie, 61, died Sunday from complications of coronavirus, according to his publishing agency Adkins Publicity.

Two days before his death, Diffie released a statement saying he had tested positive for coronavirus.

"I am under the care of medical professionals and currently receiving treatment. My family and I are asking for privacy at this time. We want to remind the public and all my fans to be vigilant, cautious and careful during this pandemic."

A native of Tulsa, Oklahoma, Diffie was a 25-year member of the Grand Ole Opry. Some of his hits included "John Deere Greene" and "Home."

4:31 p.m. ET, March 29, 2020

Nigeria's President announces 14-day 'cessation of movement'

From CNN's Lauren Kent 

Both Nigeria's largest city and capital city will be under a "cessation of movement" for 14 days, said Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari in a Sunday address, which was published on Twitter.

Based on advice from the Federal Ministry of Health and the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, Buhari issued an order prohibiting all movements in Lagos and Federal Capital Territory for 14 days. The order will go into effect Monday at 11 p.m. local time.

"As we are all aware, Lagos and Abuja have the majority of confirmed cases in Nigeria. Our focus therefore remains to urgently and drastically contain these cases, and to support other states and regions in the best way we can," said Buhari.

Citizens in areas effected by Buhari's order will be required to stay in their homes and businesses and offices "should be fully closed during this period," Buhari said. Businesses involved in health care, food processing and distribution, petroleum, power and private security are exempt from the order. Workers in telecommunications and the media who prove they are unable to work from home are also exempt.