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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7:01 p.m. ET, March 31, 2020

Trump discusses the potential need for Americans to wear masks

From CNN's Jason Hoffman 

President Trump discussed the need for Americans to wear masks to help stop the spread of coronavirus.

Trump said that Americans “can wear scarves” in lieu of masks.

“You know, you can use a scarf. A lot of people have scarfs, and you can use a scarf. A scarf would be very good. My feeling is if people want to do it, there’s certainly no harm to it. I would say do it, but use a scarf if you want, rather than going out and getting a mask or whatever, we're making millions and millions of masks," Trump said when asked if he would recommend all Americans wear masks.

Trump said he wants the masks being produced to go to hospitals that need them.

“We want them to go to the hospitals. But one of the things that Dr. Fauci told me today is we don’t want everybody competing with the hospitals where you really need them,” Trump added.

Trump did say that it might not be a bad idea for Americans to use some sort of face cover, for at least a period of time.

“So you can use scarves if you want, it can be something else, it does not have to be a mask, but it’s not a bad idea at least for a period of time. I mean eventually you’re not going to want to do that, you’re not going to have to do that. It’s going to be gone. It's going to be gone, hopefully gone for a long time," Trump said.

Watch:

7:07 p.m. ET, March 31, 2020

Trump warns coronavirus more "vicious" than flu, despite his previous comments

From CNN's Allie Malloy 

Win McNamee/Getty Images
Win McNamee/Getty Images

President Trump acknowledged Tuesday that Covid-19 is worse than the seasonal flu, despite claiming otherwise multiple times in the past.

“It’s not the flu. It’s vicious,” Trump said of Covid-19 Tuesday while discussing a personal friend of his who is in a coma battling coronavirus.

Some context: The tone is new for Trump who on March 9 tweeted: “So last year 37,000 Americans died from the common Flu. It averages between 27,000 and 70,000 per year. Nothing is shut down, life & the economy go on. At this moment there are 546 confirmed cases of CoronaVirus, with 22 deaths. Think about that!”

Two days after Trump made that comment, Dr. Anthony Fauci warned that coronavirus is “10 times more lethal than the seasonal flu.” 

Today members of the coronavirus task force warned that Americans should be “prepared” for over 100,000 deaths.

Watch:

6:48 p.m. ET, March 31, 2020

Trump defends US coronavirus testing capabilities

From CNN's Jason Hoffman and Maegan Vazquez

President Trump defended the ability of the US to conduct tests for coronavirus, despite medical workers saying they cannot test everyone who needs one. 

“We're doing more than anyone in the world, by far. We are testing highly accurate tests, these are tests that work,” Trump said. “Well we’re doing, every day, and the word is exponential we are getting more and more and more, and now we have a new test that will be rolled out tomorrow or the next day and that’s going to take only a few minutes to see the result. And it's a highly accurate result."

Vice President Mike Pence later attempted to clarify why there is a discrepancy in the amount of tests that the administration said had been distributed and the amount of tests that have been conducted.

Pence said under the old testing system, tests were being sent out, but had to be returned to labs that could only tests a small number per day. 

“I think that the misunderstanding early on was that there are many tests being distributed, many test kits being sent, but under the old system, the antiquated system those were being processed in state labs or at CDC that could only produce 30 to 50 tests a day," Pence said.

Dr. Deborah Birx,  the task force response coordinator, also said she’s disappointed that Abbott Laboratories coronavirus test disbursed around the country are not being utilized.

“It is disappointing to me right now that we have about 500,000 capacity of Abbott tests that are not being utilized. So, they are out. They’re in the states. They’re not being run and not utilized. And now we have to figure out how do we create awareness,” Birx said during the briefing Tuesday.

 

6:32 p.m. ET, March 31, 2020

US Army issuing volunteer call-up of Individual Ready Reserve members

From CNN's Ryan Browne

The US Army has begun calling up members of the Individual Ready Reserve on a voluntary basis in order to help combat the spread of the novel coronavirus — another sign that the US military is seeking to bolster its medical capability as the pandemic continues to spread.

"On March 29, Human Resources Command sent messages regarding the voluntary recall to nearly 10,000 members of the (Individual Ready Reserve) with specific medical skills," Lt. Col. Emmanuel Ortiz told CNN in a statement. "Protecting our citizens from the coronavirus is a vital call to action. We need the help of many of our Individual Ready Reserve medical professionals. They possess valuable training, education, skills and talents necessary to win this fight."

In most cases, after concluding their military obligations, service members will enter into what is known as the Individual Ready Reserve.

By the numbers: At present, the Individual Ready Reserve contains 224,841 members, according to the Department of Defense.

The ready reserve status requires no active participation or drilling, leading the vast majority of service members to consider being in that status the same as being out of the military. Most service members are in that designation for a period of years.

A spokesperson for the Army said that some 9,000 retirees had expressed interest in volunteering.

6:42 p.m. ET, March 31, 2020

US should prepare for 100,000 deaths due to coronavirus, Fauci says

Alex Brandon/AP
Alex Brandon/AP

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said the US should prepare for a reality where 100,000 Americans are killed from coronavirus, he said Tuesday afternoon during a coronavirus task force briefing.

"As sobering as that number is, we should be prepared for it. Is it going to be that much? I hope not and I think the more we push back on mitigation, the less likelihood it would that number. But as being realistic, we need to prepare ourselves that that is a possibility that that's what we'll see," Fauci said.

Fauci added on the projected numbers of deaths: “We don’t accept that number. We are going to do everything we can to be below that.”

“This is the thing to anticipate but that doesn’t mean that we are going to accept it,” Fauci said in the White House briefing room.

Watch:

5:58 p.m. ET, March 31, 2020

Almost 28% of coronavirus cases in Minnesota are healthcare workers

From CNN's Artemis Moshtaghian

­­­Out of the 629 cases of the novel coronavirus in Minnesota, 173 of them are health care workers, Minnesota Department of Health spokesperson Doug Schultz told CNN.

These numbers suggest that seven in 25 of those who tested positive for COVID-19 in Minnesota are healthcare workers.

Schultz pointed out that “our testing is focused on healthcare workers so the proportions are probably higher than otherwise would be.”

He also noted that not all healthcare workers contracted the virus from their workplace and that most of the positive cases are travel-related.

6:00 p.m. ET, March 31, 2020

Trump warns of "very painful two weeks" ahead in US

From CNN's Jason Hoffman 

Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images
Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

President Trump warned the nation that everyone will be facing a “very very rough two weeks” in the coronavirus pandemic. 

“I want every American to be prepared for the hard days that lie ahead. We're going to go through a very tough two weeks,” Trump said at the daily coronavirus task force briefing on Tuesday. 

He says he hopes after that the country might see some “light at the end of the tunnel.”

Trump added: “And then hopefully, as the experts are predicting, as I think a lot of us are predicting, after having studied it so hard, we're going to start seeing some real light at the end of the tunnel, but this is going to be a very painful, very, very painful two weeks."

5:54 p.m. ET, March 31, 2020

Trump says the federal government is holding back almost 10,000 ventilators

From CNN's Matthew Hoye

Alex Brandon/AP
Alex Brandon/AP

President Trump said that there are almost 10,000 ventilators being “held back” from distribution because “the surge is coming.”

“We also are holding back quite a bit. We have almost 10,000 ventilators that we have ready to go. We have to hold them back, because the surge is coming and it's coming pretty strong and we want to be able to immediately move it into place without going and taking it, so we're ready to go," Trump said.

Trump previously said he thinks it would be difficult to get equipment back from states and redistributed once they have been issued to hospitals. 

5:53 p.m. ET, March 31, 2020

Louisiana pastor says church doors will be open on Sunday despite charges

From CNN's Jamiel Lynch

People arrive for church services at the Life Tabernacle Church on Sunday, March 29.
People arrive for church services at the Life Tabernacle Church on Sunday, March 29. Gerald Herbert/AP

Mark Anthony Spell, pastor of Life Tabernacle Church in Central, Louisiana, told CNN the doors to his church will be open on Sunday, despite charges Tuesday for violating the governor's executive order.

Spell said that opening the church is no more risk than the hundreds of people going and shopping at stores.

When asked why he will not follow the governor's mandate, Spell said: "We have a mandate from the word of the Lord to assemble together. The first amendment says that Congress shall make no law prohibiting the exercise of religion."

Spell said that officers came to him today and read him his rights. They did not arrest him. He said he was asked to stop having services and he told them that he would not stop.

"We aren't breaking any laws," Spell said. "The doors to the church will be open on Sunday."