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Americans face dramatic limits on public life as schools, theme parks, events shut down

The crisis continues to unfold across the globe as the World Health Organization uses the term "pandemic" for the first time.
Medical workers at Kaiser Permanente French Campus test a patient for the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, at a drive-thru testing facility in San Francisco on March 12, 2020.
Medical workers at Kaiser Permanente French Campus test a patient for the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, at a drive-thru testing facility in San Francisco on Thursday.Josh Edelson / AFP via Getty Images

The United States on Thursday surpassed 1,600 confirmed or presumptive cases of the coronavirus, and the death toll climbed to 41. Kansas reported its first death Thursday.

Wall Street recorded historic losses as fears intensified over the economic fallout from the pandemic, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average falling by 10 percent, and the Nasdaq and the S&P 500 both down by 9 percent.

It was the worst point drop ever for the Dow and its worst performance since the market crash in 1987.

Disruptions in the sports world continued, with March Madness canceled, the suspension of MLB's spring training and a pause on the National Hockey League season.

Health and government officials continue to call for the end of large gatherings, and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints suspended public gatherings worldwide, the Smithsonian announced it will close indefinitely all museums in Washington, D.C. and New York City and Broadway theaters canceled performances through April 12.

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States urge alternative voting methods ahead of Tuesday primaries

As coronavirus continues to spread, election officials in the four states holding presidential primaries next Tuesday are encouraging Americans to vote by unconventional means to avoid crowds.

That usually means voting by mail or voting early to avoid large crowds in states where those things are an option — as is the case in those holding primaries March 17.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention declared the coronavirus a pandemic Wednesday, and has recommended that election officials“[e]ncourage voters to use voting methods that minimize direct contact with other people and reduce crowd size at polling stations.”

“We have really been pushing as much as we can for voters who are concerned by polling places to take advantage of voting by mail,” Matt Dietrich, public affairs officer at the Illinois State Board of Elections, told NBC News. “That’s obviously the easiest way to avoid any kind of exposure to crowds, or lines or other people.”

Read the story.

Gov. Cuomo bans gatherings of more than 500 people in New York state

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Thursday that the state would ban all gatherings of 500 or more people.

The announcement could massively affect concerts, sporting events and more scheduled in New York City and throughout the state and could carry major financial consequences. 

The order comes after the Washington governor, Jay Inslee, banned events of more than 250 people across three counties in his state.

Sticking points in aid bill talks: paid sick leave and abortion

Two issues are emerging as sticking points in negotiations between the White House and Speaker Pelosi on the Coronavirus aid bill. 

The first and seemingly the bigger sticking point is paid sick leave, according to three sources familiar with the negotiations. Republicans are worried it creates new requirements for businesses that will last beyond Coronavirus.

The other is abortion, according to five sources familiar with the contours of the negotiation.

Why abortion? Well distrustful negotiators look for ways to advance their own priorities in must-pass legislation or prevent the other side from doing the same.

In this case: The White House believes provisions in the Pelosi bill that pertain to the Violence Against Women Act could open the door to federal funds for abortion. In response, the White House wants to add Hyde Amendment language to the bill — restricting the use of federal funds for abortion. Speaker Pelosi has long been an opponent of the amendment.

World Bank orders staff in D.C. to work from home and suspends global work travel

The World Bank Group ordered staff in Washington, D.C. to work from home and suspended global work travel due to the coronavirus outbreak, according to an email from its managing director of operations sent midday Wednesday.

The email, obtained by NBC News, advised all staff in Washington, D.C. to adopt home-based working starting Friday until further notice and mandated it for any employee age 65 or older or with chronic medical conditions. The bank also shut down its on-site childcare. Staff on "mission travel" were asked to return to their base location as soon as possible.

White House considering letting some staffers work from home

The White House has started preparing for some staffers to work remotely and senior administration officials are weighing further guidelines amid growing coronavirus concerns in Washington, according to administration officials.

The Office of Management and Budget is discussing the possibility of telling White House employees who aren’t required to be in the building to work from home, said an administration official. Another person compared the plans as akin to the way non-essential personnel work from home during a government shutdown. 

No final decision on a coronavirus staffing policy has been made, the officials said.

The Trump campaign, for its part, has started offering a teleworking option, said communications director Tim Murtaugh. Most staff that would normally be on the road handling upcoming events had been working out of the campaign’s Virginia headquarters, making the office more crowded than usual.


White House: Trump and Pence not being tested for coronavirus

From White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham:

“The White House is aware of public reports that a member of the Brazilian delegation‘s visit to Mar-a-Lago last weekend tested positive for COVID-19; confirmatory testing is pending. Exposures from the case are being assessed, which will dictate next steps. Both the President and Vice President had almost no interactions with the individual who tested positive and do not require being tested at this time.

“As stated before, the White House Medical Unit and the United States Secret Service has been working closely with various agencies to ensure every precaution is taken to keep the First & Second Families, and all White House staff healthy. 

“To reiterate CDC guidelines, there is currently no indication to test patients without symptoms, and only people with prolonged close exposure to confirmed positive cases should self-quarantine.

“We are monitoring the situation closely and will update everyone as we get more information.”

Italy's death toll tops 1,000 people

The death toll in Italy has risen to 1,000 people, and the country's confirmed cases of coronavirus swelled to more than 15,000 people, Italian officials confirmed Thursday.

The Italian Civil Protection Agency said that the death toll now stands at 1,016, a nearly 23 percent increase from Wednesday. The total number of confirmed cases grew to 15,113 on Thursday, which is 21 percent more cases than the day before. 

Italy has become a hotspot for the disease and the nation's leaders have put the entire country on a veritable lockdown that has turned Italy's tourist-filled cities into ghost towns. 

Analysis: The twisted politics of Washington's coronavirus response

With President Donald Trump fading further into the background as a serious player on coronavirus action, House Democrats and Trump lieutenants are battling to bolster the federal response.

Separately for the most part, but with some collaboration, they are racing to shape legislative and executive policy solutions to a pandemic that has spread rapidly from the public health arena to infect the economic health of the nation. The officials — elected Democrats, Trump-administration Republicans and nonpartisan federal agency chiefs — are also seeking to deliver accurate and consistent information to the public about the importance of slowing down the virus, after weeks of Trump downplaying the risks.

In doing so, they find themselves fighting the fierce partisan instincts of Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who vowed to crush a bill that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., spent much of her morning discussing with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on the telephone.

Read the full analysis here.

Utah Jazz star Donovan Mitchell confirms positive coronavirus test

NHL suspends play over coronavirus

A skater is alone on the ice prior to a scheduled game between the Detroit Red Wings and the Washington Capitals in Washington on Thursday. The NHL announced Thursday it has suspended their season, joining the NBA, MLS, and other sporting leagues around the world suspending play because of the coronavirus outbreak.Patrick Smith / Getty Images

The National Hockey League said Thursday that it has paused its season, beginning with games set to take place on Thursday, over concerns about the spread of the new coronavirus.

Commissioner Gary Bettman said the news from the NBA that a player had tested positive had influenced the NHL's decision.

“[F]ollowing last night’s news that an NBA player has tested positive for coronavirus – and given that our leagues share so many facilities and locker rooms and it now seems likely that some member of the NHL community would test positive at some point – it is no longer appropriate to try to continue to play games at this time,” Bettman said in a statement.

Trump: Restricting travel in U.S. a 'possibility' if coronavirus pandemic gets 'too hot'

President Donald Trump said Thursday that it's a "possibility" the administration could impose travel restrictions within the United States to limit exposure to the coronavirus if certain areas get "too hot."

"We haven't discussed that yet," Trump continued when asked about the option at a bilateral meeting with Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar. "Is it a possibility? Yes. If somebody gets a little bit out of control, if an area gets too hot."

"You see what they're doing in New Rochelle, which is good frankly," Trump said, referring to the city just north of Manhattan where there is a growing cluster of coronavirus cases. "It's the right thing, but it's not enforced, it's not very strong. But people know they're being watched. New Rochelle, that's a hot spot."

Imposing travel limits in the U.S. interior would a significant step in the effort to mitigate cases as coronavirus fears roil the economy and cripple various industries.

Read the story.