March 31 coronavirus news

By Joshua Berlinger, Christopher Johnson and Angela Dewan, CNN

Updated 0629 GMT (1429 HKT) April 1, 2021
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2:38 p.m. ET, March 31, 2021

About 1 in 6 US residents are fully vaccinated against Covid-19, CDC data shows

From CNN's Deidre McPhillips

A nurses draws a Moderna vaccine dose from a vial at the Cameron Grove Community Center on March 25 in Bowie, Maryland.
A nurses draws a Moderna vaccine dose from a vial at the Cameron Grove Community Center on March 25 in Bowie, Maryland. Win McNamee/Getty Images

More than 150 million doses of Covid-19 vaccine have been administered in the US, according to data published Wednesday by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

The CDC reported that at least 150,273,292 total doses have been administered, about 77% of the 195,581,725 doses delivered. 

That's about 2.7 million more doses reported administered since yesterday, for a new record seven-day average of more than 2.8 million doses per day. 

About one in six US residents – nearly 55 million people – are fully vaccinated against Covid-19, and about 29% of the population – more than 97 million people – have received at least one dose, CDC data shows. 

Note: Data published by the CDC may be delayed, and doses may not have been given on the day reported. 

3:00 p.m. ET, March 31, 2021

French President calls for another national lockdown as Covid-19 cases surge

From CNN's Pierre Bairin and Lindsay Isaac

The Larragana family watch French President Emmanuel Macron addressing the nation in Ascain, France, on March 31.
The Larragana family watch French President Emmanuel Macron addressing the nation in Ascain, France, on March 31. Bob Edme/AP

In a televised address to the nation, French President Emmanuel Macron said France risks "losing control" over the spread of Covid-19 without new national measures.

He said France would be extending the regional “reinforced slow-down” restrictions, already in place in 19 areas of the country, to all of France for four weeks.

Under the “limited lockdown,” curfews will remain in place, domestic travel will be limited and people will be asked to work from home. The new lockdown measures will start on April 3 and last through May 2.

“These rules will be extended to the entire metropolitan territory from this Saturday evening and for four weeks,” Macron said. “If we make this choice to extend them to the entire metropolitan territory, it is because no metropolitan area is now spared,” he added. 

Macron said the new UK variant has created an “epidemic within an epidemic” and it is more contagious and deadly. Almost 44% of all Covid-19 patients in intensive care units are under the age of 65 he said. France has made the “right choices” so far but in the past few weeks the vaccine has “accelerated” and “things have changed.” 

Starting Saturday all schools will be closed for three weeks. On April 26, kindergarten and primary schools can reopen. Middle schools and high schools can reopen on May 3, Macron said.

“These last weeks we are facing a new situation. We have entered a race of speed,” the French president said as the number of patients in ICUs exceeded 5,000 on Tuesday – a first since April 2020. “We must therefore set ourselves a new framework for the coming months,” he added. 

Macron said thanks to vaccinations, the country can see a way out of this crisis. "A total of 250,000 professionals are now ready to contribute to this national effort to vaccinate 7 days a week," he added.

2:25 p.m. ET, March 31, 2021

Yemen receives first Covid-19 vaccines as infections surge

From CNN’s Eleanor Pickston

An employee unloads boxes from a plane that carried Yemen's first shipment of Covid-19 vaccines, via the international COVAX facility, at the airport of Yemen's southern port city of Aden on March 31.
An employee unloads boxes from a plane that carried Yemen's first shipment of Covid-19 vaccines, via the international COVAX facility, at the airport of Yemen's southern port city of Aden on March 31. Saleh Obaidi/AFP/Getty Images

Yemen has received its first shipment of Covid-19 vaccines via the international COVAX facility, the World Health Organization Yemen announced today.

It comes a week after the country's coronavirus committee urged the government to declare a public health state of emergency amid a rise in infections.

The shipment included 360,000 doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccination, as well as 13,000 safety boxes and 1.3 million syringes. 

It is the first shipment of an expected 1.9 million doses that Yemen is set to received through COVAX during 2021. 

COVAX is an entity run by a coalition that includes the Vaccine Alliance known as Gavi and WHO. It is funded by donations from governments, multilateral institutions and foundations with a mission to buy coronavirus vaccines in bulk and send them to poorer nations that can't compete with wealthy countries in securing contracts with major drug companies.

“The ministry of health will start targeting health workers and frontline health workers who are more exposed the virus of course,” United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund Representative Philippe Duamelle said. “Vaccines work, vaccines save lives, now let’s start getting people vaccinated”, he added.

“This shipment represents an important step in the fight against COVID-19 in Yemen. It will help save lives, including of those at highest risk of serious disease, and will help protect the health system. These safe and effective vaccines will be a gamechanger, but for the foreseeable future we must continue wearing masks, physically distance and avoid crowds,” WHO representative Dr. Adham Ismail said

Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) last week warned of a “dramatic influx of critically ill Covid-19 patients,” in Yemen, and urged for greater assistance from aid groups and donor countries.

2:04 p.m. ET, March 31, 2021

Go There: CNN is in Atlanta as parents grapple with students' return to the classroom

This morning, Pfizer/BioNTech announced today its Covid-19 vaccine showed 100% efficacy in youths ages 12 to 15. Shortly after, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said that Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona is “very confident” that children will be back in school for in-person learning in the fall.

CNN's Ryan Young was in Atlanta as parents and students grapple with a return to school.

Watch more:

1:24 p.m. ET, March 31, 2021

European Union regulator stands behind use of AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine

From CNN's Zahid Mahmood and Chloe Adams

A health worker prepares a dose of the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine at the Wanda Metropolitano stadium in Madrid, Spain, on March 24.
A health worker prepares a dose of the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine at the Wanda Metropolitano stadium in Madrid, Spain, on March 24. Gabriel Bouys/AFP/Getty Images

The European Union’s medicines regulator says there is “no scientific evidence” to support restricting AstraZeneca vaccine to certain age groups. 

The European Medicine Agency’s (EMA) executive director Emer Cooke said in a virtual press conference that independent experts have looked at the cases, alongside scientists, to determine if there was any underlying risk factor that makes people more susceptible to blood disorders. They were not able to find any specific risk factors.

This comes after German Chancellor Angela Merkel limited AstraZeneca vaccine to people over 60 on Tuesday, following reports of a rare blood clot in the brains of 31 people since having a first dose. 

“Two weeks ago on the 18th of March we gave an interim update of the assessment, and we concluded at the time that the benefits of the AstraZeneca vaccine in preventing COVID-19, with its associated risk of hospitalization and death outweigh the risks of side effects, and our position has not changed,” Cooke said.

“[The] Pharmacovigilance Risk Assessment Committee, a committee responsible for assessing the safety of medicines, continues to review all the data available and will aim to reach a scientific conclusion on the signal next week," she continued.

Cooke added that the EMA continue to monitor all the scientific evidence available on effectiveness and safety of Covid-19 vaccines and will issue recommendations based on robust evidence.

When asked about Germany’s decision to restrict age limits, Cooke said they were asking their experts to evaluate if they can come to an age or gender based association, adding that Germany’s decision was a matter for the German government to take and not one for a regulator.  

Earlier on Wednesday, the head of the World Health Organization's Department of Immunization, Vaccines and Biologicals reiterated the benefit-risk assessment for the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine saying it still weighs very heavily in favor of its use.

 

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.