March 31 coronavirus news

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10:45 a.m. ET, March 31, 2020

At least 66 doctors in Italy have died during coronavirus pandemic

From CNN's Sharon Braithwaite and Nicola Ruotolo

Five more doctors have died in Italy from coronavirus, the Italian Federation of doctors said on Tuesday.

There have now been at least 66 deaths of doctors since the outbreak in Italy started. 

At least 8,956 health care workers have been infected with Covid-19. That’s an increase of more that 500 cases in the past few days.

10:40 a.m. ET, March 31, 2020

Consumer confidence falls to near 3-year low during coronavirus pandemic

From CNN's Anneken Tappe

Consumer confidence in March was a mix of good news and bad news.

The Conference Board's consumer confidence index for March came in at 120 points and beat economist’s expectations of 110 points. That's the good news.

The bad news: It was the lowest level for the index since July 2017. The index had been at 132.6 in February.

The short-term outlook for income, business and labor market conditions dropped to 88.2 points from 108.1 points in February.

"The intensification of Covid-19 and extreme volatility in the financial markets have increased uncertainty about the outlook for the economy and jobs. March’s decline in confidence is more in line with a severe contraction – rather than a temporary shock – and further declines are sure to follow,” said Lynn Franco, senior director of economic indicators at The Conference Board.

10:36 a.m. ET, March 31, 2020

Fauci: If there's a second wave of coronavirus, US "will be much, much better prepared"

 Dr. Anthony Fauci
 Dr. Anthony Fauci CNN

Dr. Anthony Fauci, a key member of the White House's coronavirus task force, said the US could see a "second wave" of coronavirus — but he insisted "we will be much, much better prepared" for that possible outbreak.

"If we do have a second wave — which as I've mentioned publicly, I think there's a reasonably good chance we will given the pervasiveness of this infection and its transmissibility — I don't think at all it will be as bad because we have several things in our favor," he told CNN.

Fauci said the US will be more prepared and have better equipment. Drugs that are in clinical trials could also be available during a possible second wave, and a vaccine could be developed, he said.

"I can say with some confidence that, if we indeed get that second wave, we will be much, much better prepared than we are right now," Fauci said.
10:34 a.m. ET, March 31, 2020

White House coronavirus task force will discuss mask guidelines today, Fauci says

From CNN's Adrienne Vogt

The US’s top infectious disease expert said that a broad use of masks is being considered during the coronavirus pandemic, once the supply of masks is sufficient for health care workers. 

“Once we get in a situation where we have enough masks, I believe there will be some very serious consideration about more broadening this recommendation of using masks,” Dr. Anthony Fauci said on CNN. “We're not there yet, but I think we're close to coming to some determination.” 

Fauci said they will discuss mask guidelines this afternoon at the White House coronavirus task force meeting. 

World Health Organization officials yesterday said they still recommend people not wear face masks unless they are sick with coronavirus or caring for someone who is sick.

10:28 a.m. ET, March 31, 2020

Fauci: We see "glimmers" that social distancing is working

From CNN's Adrienne Vogt

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said social distancing measures appear to be working — but stressed that the coronavirus pandemic is still a very serious situation. 

“We’re starting to see glimmers that that is actually having some dampening effect,” Fauci told CNN’s Jim Sciutto.

Fauci cautioned that the US hasn’t seen a turnaround in cases yet, but is hopeful that efforts to push mitigation is possibly slowing the rate. 

“What we're starting to see right now is just the inklings. And I don't want to put too much stock on it, because you don't want to get overconfident, you just want to keep pushing in what you're doing. You're starting to see that the daily increases are not in that steep incline, they're starting to be able to possibly flatten out,” Fauci says.

WATCH:

10:08 a.m. ET, March 31, 2020

Fired Amazon worker who led coronavirus protest says he intends to file a complaint

From CNN’s Brian Fung

Workers at Amazon's fulfillment center in Staten Island, New York, gather outside to protest work conditions in the company's warehouse,on Monday, March 30.
Workers at Amazon's fulfillment center in Staten Island, New York, gather outside to protest work conditions in the company's warehouse,on Monday, March 30. Bebeto Matthews/AP

Christian Smalls, the Amazon warehouse employee who was fired on Monday after leading a worker walkout, told CNN he intends to file a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board over his termination. 

Smalls did not give a timeframe for the complaint, saying his first priority is to persuade local government officials to force Amazon to shut down the Staten Island facility where multiple employees have tested positive for the novel coronavirus. 

“All I can say is, legal action will be taken in due time,” Smalls told CNN.

Amazon has said Smalls was fired because he attended Monday’s worker protest despite being 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 in a statement Monday night. "Despite that instruction to stay home with pay, he came onsite today, March 30, putting the teams at risk."

Smalls has argued he is being singled out for punishment and that the protest was intended to pressure Amazon to close the facility for deep cleaning. 

9:57 a.m. ET, March 31, 2020

New Orleans is preparing for a "significant amount of deaths," official says

From CNN's Adrienne Vogt

A New Orleans official said the city is readying for an uptick in coronavirus-related deaths. There are currently 1,480 coronavirus cases and 86 deaths in New Orleans.

In a community of about 400,000 people, the Louisiana city is tracking at about 5% mortality rate, Collin Arnold, director of the New Orleans Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, said.

“That’s high. And our population has a higher rate of underlying health conditions. We're preparing for a significant amount of hospitalizations and unfortunately, a corresponding significant amount of deaths,” Arnold said.

He added that he thinks the stay-at-home mandate is still working and is necessary to flatten the curve in coronavirus cases. He said 1,000 beds in the convention center will be ready by the end of the week to free up space in hospitals for the expected surge in coronavirus patients.

Watch more:

9:57 a.m. ET, March 31, 2020

Fed launches another emergency program to aid foreign central banks during pandemic

From CNN’s Matt Egan

The U.S. Federal Reserve building in Washington, on March 23.
The U.S. Federal Reserve building in Washington, on March 23. Liu Jie/Xinhua/Getty Images

The Federal Reserve is opening up another avenue for stressed-out foreign central banks to get access to US dollars during the coronavirus crisis.

The new emergency program, announced today, is part of the Fed's sweeping efforts to keep credit flowing to American businesses and households despite the severe economic shock inflicted by the pandemic.

The US central bank said the new temporary repurchase agreement (repo) facility will let foreign central banks swap US Treasuries for US dollars. Those greenbacks can then be transferred to local banks in need of cash.

The Fed said the new program, set to launch April 6, would mostly be used "only in unusual circumstances such as those prevailing at present."

The goal is to lower the need for foreign central banks to dump US Treasuries in fire sales, which can disrupt markets and cause yields to rise. And that in turn lifts borrowing costs on everything from mortgages to credit cards.

Demand for the US dollar, the world's preeminent currency, has spiked during the crisis.

In response, the Fed promised to provide cheap dollars to foreign central banks through liquidity swap lines. The Fed expanded that facility to Australia, Brazil and Mexico.

9:46 a.m. ET, March 31, 2020

US stocks open lower following yesterday's gains

From CNN’s Anneken Tappe

pencer Platt/Getty Images/FILE
pencer Platt/Getty Images/FILE

US stocks opened modestly lower on Tuesday, following the prior session’s gains. Stocks have been up for four of the past five trading days.

Here's where things opened:

  • The Dow opened down 0.4%, or 90 points.
  • The S&P 500 kicked off 0.4% lower.
  • The Nasdaq Composite opened down 0.4% as well.

You can follow live updates from the markets here.