5 things to know for March 31: Coronavirus, health, economy, trans rights, Hungary

A spring break for warmth for parts of the South will be ushered in by a line of storms today which will produce strong winds and possibly hail or an isolated tornado. CNN meteorologist Pedram Javaheri has the timing and how long this cooler weather will last.

Here’s something to look forward to: The Tokyo Olympics have a brand new date. The Games will be held from July 23 to August 8 in 2021.

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1. Coronavirus 

The US Navy Hospital Ship Comfort has docked in New York City as the US faces what could be its most difficult month in the coronavirus pandemic. More than 3,000 people have died of the virus on American soil, and experts worry that when the outbreak reaches its predicted peak in mid-April, more than 2,000 people could die a day. About 82,000 people could die in all by August, even with social distancing measures, according to one model cited by the White House. However, there may be some bright spots in the dark days ahead: Hospitals in the Northern California region are cautiously hopeful that they may be seeing the first benefits of shelter-at-home precautions in the form of slightly less crushing surges of patients. Follow here for more updates. 

2. Health 

The race is on for companies to test possible coronavirus treatments and vaccines. Pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson says it plans to begin human clinical trials of a Covid-19 vaccine by September, with a goal of the first batches being available for emergency use early next year. Other smaller biotech companies are also working on potential vaccines, but more immediate hope may be found in treatments that are already available for other ailments. The WHO has begun clinical tests of remdesivir, a drug originally used against Ebola and other highly contagious diseases, on patients in Spain and Norway. Meanwhile, Chinese health officials have been testing a rheumatoid arthritis drug, Roche’s Actemra, on Covid-19 patients there.

3. Economy 

House Democrats are eyeing an ambitious fourth coronavirus response package that they hope will include more direct payments to individuals, money for state and local governments, and funding for infrastructure. Speaker Nancy Pelosi said if such measures aren’t covered, the economic situation could get even more dangerous for Americans, even with the recently passed $2.2 trillion relief bill. Some parts of the economy are already feeling the pain. Macy’s announced it is furloughing a majority of its 125,000 employees because of the pandemic, which has sunk sales and forced store closures. The price of oil has crashed to a new 18-year low as coronavirus measures continue to suffocate energy demand. Even Amazon, which has seen customer demand soar, is facing controversy after firing an employee who led a walkout at the company’s Staten Island warehouse.

4. Transgender rights

Idaho’s Republican Gov. Brad Little signed into law two bills that limit the rights of transgender people, prompting outcry from LGBTQ and human rights advocates. One bill, the Fairness in Women’s Sports Act, bans transgender girls from playing on girls’ and women’s sports teams. The bill makes Idaho the first state to pass legislation against transgender students, the ACLU says, adding that the measure violates policies set by the Idaho High School Activities Association. The second bill prohibits transgender people from changing their gender on Idaho birth certificates. A federal court struck down a similar bill in 2018.

5. Hungary

Hungary’s parliament has voted to let Prime Minister Viktor Orban rule by decree indefinitely, opening the door for the populist leader to enforce all kinds of restrictive policies. The move was made as a protective measure of sorts against the uncertainty of the coronavirus pandemic. Orban can now bypass a number of democratic institutions to, for instance, suspend parliament, punish journalists over coronavirus reporting, and enact heavier penalties for violating quarantine regulations. The leader has already attracted criticism from other EU members for his country’s hard-line immigration policies and his attempts to consolidate power, so these measures are likely to cause even more friction.

BREAKFAST BROWSE

Taco Bell will give you a free taco today

Following proper social distancing protocols, of course.

Deepak Chopra’s meditation streamed crashed because so many people tuned in to see the wellness guru 

WE JUST WANT TO FEEL BETTER, OK. 

Top chefs share their go-to comfort foods 

Spoiler: There are a lot of carbs. 

A man allegedly teaching his dog to drive was arrested after a high-speed chase 

Ah, the old “teaching my dog how to drive” excuse.

A zoo in Belgium shared adorable photos of orangutans playing with otters 

Everyone say thank you to Pairi Daiza zoo for this lovely gift.

HAPPENING LATER

Harry and Meghan say goodbye to royal life 

Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, officially relinquish their royal duties today and start a new life. What will it look like? Well, no titles for starters, but they’ll still get some help from Harry’s father, Prince Charles.

TODAY’S NUMBER

50,000

That’s how many ventilators Ford plans to make in 100 days. The automaker says it will use a massive supply chain and base production at its Rawsonville Components Plant in Ypsilanti, Michigan.

TODAY’S QUOTE

“There are no viruses here. Did you see any of them flying around? I don’t see them, too.”

Alexander Lukashenko, the President of Belarus, while at a hockey game. In Belarus, life has gone on much the same and the president has been highly incredulous of international coronavirus measures. However, neighboring Russia recently stepped up its response and temporarily closed its borders, with checkpoints on the border with Belarus.

TODAY’S WEATHER

AND FINALLY

The legend of the San Nicolas cookie

Doing some stress baking? Let this intricate, healing treat from the Philippines be your inspiration today. (Click here to view.)

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