March 31 coronavirus news

By Julia Hollingsworth, Adam Renton, Joshua Berlinger, Mike Hayes and Meg Wagner, CNN

Updated 9:48 p.m. ET, March 31, 2020
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5:26 p.m. ET, March 31, 2020

Small business owners can apply for loans from $349 billion Payroll Protection Program starting Friday

From CNN's Vivian Salama

David Bramante, the owner of West Newton Theatre in Newton, Massachusetts, stands in the doorway of the theater on March 27. Bramante had to close the theatre due to the coronavirus pandemic.
David Bramante, the owner of West Newton Theatre in Newton, Massachusetts, stands in the doorway of the theater on March 27. Bramante had to close the theatre due to the coronavirus pandemic. Suzanne Kreiter/The Boston Globe/Getty Images

Small business owners will be able to apply for loans to weather the economic downturn set off by Covid-19 on a first-come, first-serve basis beginning Friday as part of the newly-passed stimulus package.

The Payroll Protection Program aims to provide $349 billion in forgivable loans to small businesses, to help them maintain employee payroll, make rent or interest payments on their mortgages, pay utilities or cover other overhead costs, according to administration officials. Businesses are expected to receive their checks within three weeks of applying, administration officials said. 

Borrowers will be charged 0.5% interest as part of the Trump administration’s efforts to offer funding to small businesses so they continue operating during the current slowdown, according to the Treasury Department.

The new legislation also provides a “generous” processing fee that’s paid by the government for facilitating these loans to incentivized banks and other lenders to issue the loans, administration officials said Tuesday.

Administration officials hope that the loans will help small businesses meet payroll and cover overhead, provide incentives for larger businesses to keep employees on the payroll, provide enhanced unemployment insurance for workers who are laid off and protect distressed industries that are critical for the country’s national and economic security. 

All loan payments will be deferred for six months and receive a 100% guarantee from the Small Business Administration. 

5:19 p.m. ET, March 31, 2020

Planned Parenthood will comply with Indiana's order to cancel all elective or non-urgent procedures, including abortions

From CNN's Rob Frehse

Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky said they would comply with Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb’s executive order to postpone or cancel all elective or non-urgent procedures, including abortions, to conserve medical equipment.

Holcomb said Tuesday that he would leave it up to a doctor to determine if postponing or cancelling any of those procedures would cause harm to the patient.

“Any and all medical expertise and PPE first needs to go toward defeating Covid-19 in this window and the sooner the better for all of us,” he said. 

Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky CEO Chris Charbonneau said they would comply with the governor’s directive but noted that their top priority is “ensuring that every person can continue accessing essential health care, including abortions.”

“As Hoosiers do their part during this COVID-19 pandemic, Planned Parenthood is doing our part to conserve needed resources and protect the health and safety of our patients and staff. Together, we’ll meet this challenge, no matter what,” Charbonneau said in a statement to CNN.
5:05 p.m. ET, March 31, 2020

First Los Angeles County health care worker dies of coronavirus

From CNN's Cheri Mossburg

Los Angeles County has lost its first health care worker to coronavirus.

The health care worker was under the age of 60, county Health Director Barbara Ferrer announced in a press conference.

“To the family of the health care worker who died of Covid-19, I want to express on behalf of the entire county family, our sympathy to your family and our gratitude to this person who gave everything for the health of our community,” Ferrer said.

At least 10 people have died of the virus in Los Angeles County in the past day, Ferrer announced, and an additional 548 new cases have been confirmed. The total number of cases in Los Angeles County now stands at 3,011.

In just a week, the number of positive cases has tripled. Likely, that’s reflective of testing capacity, which has also tripled, according to Ferrer.

4:47 p.m. ET, March 31, 2020

Chicago offers $100 million in low-interest loans to support small businesses

From CNN's Artemis Moshtaghian

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced on Tuesday that the city will be providing $100 million in low-interest loans through Chicago Small Business Resiliency Fund to support the city's small businesses that are losing revenue because of the coronavirus pandemic. 

The fund was set up to provide immediate stopgap relief to thousands of small businesses in Chicago.

“We know that our business owners and entrepreneurs don’t have the luxury to wait for federal support which is why with the Chicago Small Business Resiliency Fund, we are putting money directly into the hands of our small businesses now so that they can weather this storm,” Lightfoot said.

Some background: The Chicago Small Business Resiliency Fund was created last week through an up to $50 million in capital commitment from the Catalyst Fund to be determined by the board, a $25 million grant from the City of Chicago, as well as $10 million from Goldman Sachs’ Urban Investment Group, $1 million from Fifth Third, $250,000 from Clayco and $15 million from additional private funding sources.

 

5:29 p.m. ET, March 31, 2020

Connecticut governor says national strategic stockpile is empty and "we are on our own"

From CNN's Laura Ly

Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont said today that the national strategic stockpile is empty.

Lamont said the state has received 50 ventilators from the federal government, but said, “Now, we are on our own.”

Lamont said Connecticut still needs more personal protective equipment and supplies, saying he felt like a general sending soldiers into battle without proper protection.

Lamont also said that Connecticut is the fourth most Covid-19 infected state in the country, per capita, behind New York, New Jersey and Louisiana. He urged everyone to think of the Covid-19 epicenter as a region, the New York Metro region, instead of state-by-state.

Hear more:

4:33 p.m. ET, March 31, 2020

California governor believes coronavirus peak will come mid-May

From CNN's Cheri Mossburg

Health Public Information Officer Shane Reichardt organizes medical equipment inside a field hospital in Indio, California, on March 29.
Health Public Information Officer Shane Reichardt organizes medical equipment inside a field hospital in Indio, California, on March 29. Apu Gomes/AFP/Getty Images

Based on modeling in California, Gov. Gavin Newsom says the peak number of cases in hospitals throughout the state will come in mid-May.

Preparations for a potential surge of 50,000 needed hospital beds are underway with an expectation that about 10,000 of those beds will be in intensive care units, requiring ventilation support.

Dr. Mark Ghaly, the state's Health and Human Services secretary, says the model takes into account how residents perform with physical distancing efforts across the state.

4:41 p.m. ET, March 31, 2020

Wisconsin is moving forward with primary next week despite coronavirus concerns

From CNN's Eric Bradner

Gov. Tony Evers declares a public health emergency on Thursday, March 12, in response to a growing number of cases coronavirus.
Gov. Tony Evers declares a public health emergency on Thursday, March 12, in response to a growing number of cases coronavirus. Steve Apps/Wisconsin State Journal/AP

Wisconsin is moving forward with plans to hold its primary election next Tuesday, creating a chaotic scenario that's left state and local election officials scrambling to hold a primary in the middle of a pandemic.

Wisconsin elections officials are trying to keep up as absentee ballots surge, poll workers drop out and supplies are in short demand a week away from a primary in which in-person voting is still set to proceed — despite Democratic Gov. Tony Evers' stay-at-home order and 1,351 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the state as of this afternoon.

Other states with April primaries have postponed them or shifted those contests to vote-by-mail only.

But in Wisconsin, the governor has said he won't delay the election. Republicans who control the state legislature have enacted strict voter identification laws in recent years, meanwhile, are refusing Evers' request — made last week, 11 days before the election — to quickly enact a law that would send absentee ballots to every voter in the state. 

This has left some Wisconsin voters to decide between exercising their constitutional right to vote and their safety and local election officials searching for poll workers and supplies. And a last-minute flurry of lawsuits — five were filed in recent days — could still change the rules.

"The Wisconsin election will be like nothing anyone alive has ever experienced," said Ben Wikler, the chairman of the Wisconsin Democratic Party. "Everyone involved in this election is scrambling to try to make democracy work in an impossible situation."
4:24 p.m. ET, March 31, 2020

Fauci says he might recommend wearing masks if it doesn't affect hospitals' supply

From CNN's Michael Nedelman

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said he would "lean towards" recommending that the general public wear face masks "if we do not have the problem of taking away masks from the health care workers who need them.”

During a taping for tomorrow’s “Coronavirus: Fact vs. Fiction” podcast, Fauci told CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta that face masks would be a "subject of conversation" at a White House briefing later that day.

"Particularly now that we're getting some inklings that there's transmission of infection from an asymptomatic person who is not coughing, who is not sneezing, who just appears well. Well, then how do you think that's happening?" Fauci said. "It very well could be aerosol. Maybe not aerosol, you know, that goes on for hours. But even the slight aerosol in which you're talking to somebody. If that's the case, we should at least look at the data and try to make a decision about that.”

Despite a lack of conclusive evidence that masks prevent transmission of respiratory diseases, some experts have argued that non-medical fabric masks might make a dent in transmission risk.

Throughout the pandemic so far, the World Health Organization and US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have advised against the general public's use of masks unless they are already sick.

"Something doesn't have to be 100% effective to be beneficial," Fauci said.

At yesterday's White House Task Force briefing, President Trump said, "We are not going to be wearing masks forever, but it could be for a short period of time after we get back into gear. I could see something like that happening for a period of time.” 

Watch:

4:27 p.m. ET, March 31, 2020

US stocks log disastrous first quarter

From CNN’s Anneken Tappe

A woman walks past the New York Stock Exchange on March 19.
A woman walks past the New York Stock Exchange on March 19. Johannes Eisele/AFP/Getty Images

US stocks dropped sharply in the first three months of the year as worries about the global coronavirus pandemic and its impact on businesses and the economy grew.

Here's how the markets performed in the first quarter:

  • The Dow recorded its worst start to a year in history, down 23.2% for the quarter.
  • The S&P 500, meanwhile, logged its worst quarter since the final three months of 2008, down 20%.
  • The Nasdaq Composite’s downturn was more contained. The tech-heavy index recorded its worst quarter since the final months of 2018, falling 14.2%.

The final day of the quarter also ended with all three indexes in the red today.

The Dow closed 410 points, or 1.8% lower, and was down 13.7% for the month.

The S&P ended down 1.6%. It fell 12.5% in March.

It was the worst month since October 2008 for both indexes.

The Nasdaq Composite closed down nearly 1%, for a 10.1% monthly loss. It was its worst month since November 2008.