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2 members of U.S. Congress test positive, New York City cases double

Here are the latest updates from around the world.
Image: People walk in Times Square as the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak continues in Manhattan, New York City
People walk in Times Square as the coronavirus disease outbreak continues in New York City on March 18, 2020.Andrew Kelly / Reuters

The number of coronavirus cases globally topped 200,000 Wednesday, as people in the United States and in countries across the world adjusted to life under lockdowns and isolation.

The concern about the economic consequences of the pandemic spurred another widespread decline in stock prices, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average closing down over 1,300 points on Wednesday. Many major stock indexes around the world were down more than 4 percent.

According to Johns Hopkins University, there are currently more than 201,000 confirmed cases and 8,000 deaths related to the coronavirus around the world.

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Princess Beatrice's wedding reception at Buckingham Palace canceled

Image: Princess Beatrice of York at an event in Portugal in 2018.
Princess Beatrice of York at an event in Portugal in 2018.David Fitzgerald / Web Summit via Getty Images

Princess Beatrice and her fiancé, Edoardo Mapelli Mozzi, are "reviewing" their wedding plans and canceled their May 29 reception due to the coronavirus pandemic, according to ITV's Chris Ship. 

“The couple will carefully consider government advice before deciding whether a private marriage might take place," Ship tweeted Wednesday, citing a Buckingham Palace statement. 

Mozzi and Princess Beatrice, the granddaughter of Queen Elizabeth II, got engaged in Italy in September. The Palace announced in February that the wedding was going to take place at The Chapel Royal at St James’s Palace in London, with a reception hosted by the Queen in the gardens of Buckingham Palace. 

The couple decided to forgo the reception because they “are particularly conscious of government advice in relation to both the wellbeing of older family members and large gatherings of people," Ship tweeted. 

The wedding may end up taking place amongst a small group of family and friends. 

World health officials warn against using phrases like 'Chinese virus'

The World Health Organization on Wednesday addressed President Trump's use of the term "Chinese virus" when referring to the coronavirus.

"It's really important that we be careful in the language we use, lest it lead to profiling of individuals associated with the virus," Dr. Mike Ryan, executive director of the WHO's health emergencies program, said during a media briefing.

"The pandemic of influenza in 2009 originated in North America, and we didn't call it the North American flu," Ryan added.

The WHO previously released guidelines for naming diseases, which recommends avoiding proper names of the people who first identified the pathogens, animals associated with the illness, or places where they were discovered.

Photo: Nepal prepares for quarantine

Personnel walks near a model quarantine zone at the Nepalese Army headquarters amid concerns about the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Kathmandu
A soldier walks near a model quarantine zone Wednesday at the Nepalese Army headquarters in Kathmandu amid concerns about the spread of coronavirus. Navesh Chitrakar / Reuters

Trump on 'the story of life'

England's death toll up to 99, up to 104 in all of the U.K.

Another 32 coronavirus deaths have been reported in England, bringing that nation's death toll from the pandemic to 99, officials said Wednesday.

"Patients were aged between 59 and 94 years old and had underlying health conditions," according to a statement from the National Health Service. "Their families have been informed."

The death toll in all the United Kingdom was at 104, officials said. 

WHO's 'solidarity trial' will examine coronavirus drugs

The World Health Organization has announced an international trial to gather data about which treatments are most effective for the coronavirus.

The "solidarity trial," as it's being called, will compare the effects of several drugs, including an experimental Ebola drug called remdesivir and an anti-malaria drug called chloroquine.

Countries that will participate include Argentina, Canada, France, Norway, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland and Thailand. The United States is not one of the participant countries at this time.

The scene in Brussels

Image: People stand apart while waiting to enter a supermarket in Brussels on March 18, 2020.
People stand apart while waiting to enter a supermarket in Brussels on Wednesday. Francisco Seco / AP

H&M to close all U.S stores

H&M followed other major retailers Wednesday in announcing that it would close all of its U.S. retail locations. The Swedish clothing company said its nearly 600 stores in the U.S. would not reopen until April 2, or until further notice. 

H&M employees would be paid for two weeks, the retailer said in a statement. The company added that online order shipping and return shipping was free due to the store closures. 

H&M has also recently closed stores in Canada, Germany, Portugal, Belgium, Italy, Poland, Spain, the Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Belgium, France, Austria, Luxembourg, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Slovenia and Kazakhstan, and some in Greece, according to Reuters.

Detroit's three biggest automakers will temporarily shut down plants

Detroit's top three automakers agreed to partially shut down factories due to the coronavirus pandemic, the United Auto Workers union said in a statement on Wednesday.

General Motors, Ford and Fiat Chrysler came to the agreement Tuesday night after union officials spoke individually with the companies. The automakers also agreed to deep cleaning of equipment and “extensive plans” to keep union members from close contact with one another.

The production cuts are intended to not only address fears of spreading the disease, but also plunging car sales. Demand in China fell 79 percent last month, and early reports indicate sharp declines in the U.S. and Europe this month.

Trading halted on Wall Street for fourth time in two weeks

Trading was halted on Wall Street on Wednesday afternoon, after the S&P 500 fell by 7 percent, triggering a market-wide circuit breaker, the fourth in two weeks.

All three major indices have suffered a grim week, with stocks spiraling downward despite a series of sweeping measures intended to address the growing economic damage from the coronavirus pandemic.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average was down by 1,600 points after trading was paused, settling at 19,576. The blue-chip index has now lost all of its gains since President Donald Trump took office on January 20, 2017.  

Americans would get two checks under Treasury Department proposal

The Treasury Department will be asking Congress for $500 billion in direct payouts for taxpayers as part of a $1 trillion stimulus package to combat the economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic, according to a proposal obtained by NBC News.

The two rounds of direct payments to taxpayers, each a total of $250 billion, would be sent on April 6 and then the second round would be sent on May 18, according to the proposal. They would be tiered payments, with the amounts based on income level and family size, the proposal says. Both payments would be for the same amount.

President Donald Trump was asked about the proposal at a coronavirus briefing at the White House on Wednesday, and said, "I don't want to get in that right now" because there are "different numbers" being discussed. But, he added, "we want to go big."

Click here for the full story.

Is it okay to take ibuprofen for coronavirus?

While worries that taking ibuprofen might worsen the coronavirus have gone viral online, health experts say there is currently no credible scientific evidence to substantiate the concern.

The World Health Organization told NBC News it's "gathering evidence" on the topic, but "after a rapid review of the literature, is not aware of published clinical or population-based data on this topic."

Read more. 

Trump to invoke Defense Production Act, suspend evictions through April

President Donald Trump said Wednesday he is invoking the Defense Production Act to mobilize U.S. private production capacity to combat the coronavirus outbreak.

Trump also said his administration is "suspending all foreclosures and evictions until the end of April" to help those affected by the virus.

The Defense Production Act, enacted in 1950, allows the president to force American businesses to produce materials in the national defense, such as ventilators and medical supplies for health care workers. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., called on Trump this morning to use those authorities to address a shortage of medical supplies.

Read more on the announcement here.

Even California Gov. Gavin Newsom's family is short on toilet paper

Image: FILES-US-ECONOMY-RETAIL-INDICATOR
A line of shoppers wait to buy toilet paper at a Costco store in Novato, Calif. on March 14, 2020.Josh Edelson / AFP - Getty Images

Not even the first family of the country's largest state is safe from the public's crazed run on toilet paper.

Jennifer Siebel Newsom, wife of California Gov. Gavin Newsom, said on Twitter that one "rose amidst all this" is that her husband and children have enjoyed "family dinners and no late night homework stress." 

"And yes, unfortunately the thorn – we run out of toilet paper, paper towels, and Kleenex tomorrow," she tweeted Wednesday. "I wish people had not hoarded."

Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival postponed until September

The Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival, which was scheduled to take place June 11–14, has been postponed until Sept. 24–27, festival organizers announced Wednesday.

"Please continue to radiate positivity through this uncharted time in our world," the organizers said in a statement, "Thank you for your continued support and we look forward to seeing you on The Farm this fall."

U.S. 'will not have' unemployment rate of 20 percent, Mnuchin says

The U.S. will not see unemployment levels of 20 percent, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin clarified Wednesday, just one day after issuing a stark warning about the economic effects of the coronavirus if Congress did not agree on the White House stimulus package.

"I didn't in any way say I think we are going to have that," Mnuchin told CNBC in a phone interview Wednesday morning. "It's just a mathematical statement."

Mnuchin also clarified that the administration would not be extending the deadline to file taxes, though the Treasury Department is allowing a 90-day reprieve on taxes owed.

"We are not moving the filing date, just the date you need to pay the money," he said, adding that Americans who expect to get refunds should file their taxes by the usual April 15 deadline.

Read the full story here. 

Coronavirus lockdowns offer some hope for climate scientists

Countries that have been under stringent lockdowns to stop the spread of the coronavirus have experienced an unintended benefit. The outbreak has, at least in part, contributed to a noticeable drop in pollution and greenhouse gas emissions in some nations.

Pollution-monitoring satellites operated by NASA and the European Space Agency observed drastic decreases in air pollution over China over a two-week period in February when parts of the country were under strict quarantine orders. Similar emissions drop-offs have been observed in recent weeks over Italy, where roughly 60 million people are under lockdown to contain the coronavirus’ rate of infection.

Though grim, scientists said these trends could offer tough lessons for how to prepare — and ideally avoid — the most destructive impacts of climate change.

Read the full story here.

Idris Elba on backlash over wife being with him during coronavirus reveal

Idris Elba addressed critics who said his wife, Sabrina Dhowre Elba, should not have been with him as he announced in a video message that he tested positive for coronavirus

"Sabrina wanted to be by my side. As much as we talked about her not coming to where I am, she did and wanted to," he said in two videos on his Twitter account. "And I would do the same for her."

Elba, who said he does not have symptoms, said that he and his wife assumed that because he has coronavirus, it was possible she already had it too. Dhowre Elba was tested for the virus on Tuesday, he said. 

IKEA will temporarily close all U.S. stores

The furniture company IKEA will temporarily close all 50 of its U.S. store locations beginning Wednesday as a precautionary measure due to the coronavirus outbreak.

“Unprecedented times call for unprecedented measures,” IKEA Retail U.S. president Javier Quiñones said in a statement.

The company told NBC News that workers will receive pay for the hours they were scheduled to work. The store's customers can still shop online and use the company’s home delivery (or store pick-up) in select locations.

Irish PM warns of 'calm before the storm, before the surge'

Ireland's prime minister, Leo Varadkar, issued a stark warning as he prepared his country for the growing coronavirus pandemic.

“This is the calm before the storm, before the surge and when it comes and it will come, never will so many ask so much of so few,” he said in a TV address on a St. Patrick’s Day he described as being like no other.

Acknowledged the "huge stress" that the containment measures were causing people on top of the fear of the virus, Varadkar also praised health care workers fighting the epidemic on the front lines in Ireland, where 292 cases have been confirmed.  

"Not all super heroes wear capes, some wear scrubs and gowns," he said. 

Chicago's voting struggles illustrate the challenges of coronavirus

Chicago voters were turned away for hours at dozens of polling locations that opened without voting machines, adequate cleaning supplies or enough poll workers — acutely illustrating the strain of voting under the threat of coronavirus exposure and mandates for social distancing and disinfecting surfaces. 

The delays were driven by a shortage of poll workers and the need to move polling equipment to new locations, Noah Praetz, a former director of elections at Cook County, told NBC News, adding that "probably 60 percent of necessary poll workers” handled things. 

After 200 polling locations were changed, about 50 precincts didn’t have enough supplies to open, James P. Allen, a spokesman for the city's elections board, told reporters. Locations struggled to find enough workers and went through a large number of replacement judges, he said. By Monday, the number of resignations from judges had risen to “a torrent, a tsunami of calls,” Chicago Board of Elections Chair Marisel Hernandez said.

At the end of the day, turnout was slightly over 30 percent in the city in what were “extremely challenging conditions,“ the city’s elections board reported — a steep drop from over 50 percent turnout in 2016 and only a few percentage points above the city’s record-low presidential primary turnout in 2012.

Efforts to push alternate means to in-person voting like early voting and voting by mail appeared successful Tuesday, with nearly 600,000 early votes cast and nearly 300,000 ballots sent by mail across the state, compared to about 423,000 early votes and 162,000 mail-in ballots in the 2016 primary, according to the Illinois State Board of Elections.

Navy hospital ship USNS Comfort headed to New York harbor

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said President Donald Trump has agreed to dispatch a floating hospital called the USNS Comfort to help with the coronavirus crisis.

The Navy ship, which Cuomo said has 1,000 beds and operating rooms, will be berthed in New York harbor.

“This is literally a floating hospital,” Cuomo said. “The president said he will dispatch that immediately.”

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Coronavirus checks cause huge traffic jams on German-Polish border

Belgium becomes latest European country to enter lockdown

Belgium became the fourth European nation to enter into a nationwide lockdown on Wednesday, joining Italy, France and Spain in imposing drastic measures to limit transmission of the coronavirus. 

The country's government asked people to stay home and avoid as much contact as possible under the measures which are in place until at least Apr. 5. Companies have also been asked to ensure that everyone who works from home if they can. 

People making essential trips for food and medicine will be exempt and the government said outdoor exercise will be allowed and even recommended. Mass gatherings will also be banned.    

Non-essential shops and businesses will remain closed, with the exception of supermarkets, pharmacies and pet food shops, the government said, 

State unemployment websites crash as applications surge

Image: Unemployment
People wait in line for help with unemployment benefits at the One-Stop Career Center, on March 17, 2020, in Las Vegas.John Locher / AP

U.S. workers who have suddenly found themselves without a paycheck because of the growing coronavirus pandemic are now dealing with another frustration — state unemployment websites crashing under the weight of high traffic.

From Oregon to New York and Washington, D.C., public officials and social media users have highlighted the problem as many Americans are thrown out of work by the mass closure of restaurants, retail stores and other businesses.

Read the full story here

The scene in the Philippines

Image: Travelers wearing raincoats, plastic covers and masks wait for a flight at Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila, Philippines, on March 18, 2020.
Travelers wearing raincoats, plastic covers and masks wait for a flight at Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila, Philippines, on Wednesday. The Philippine government shut down Luzon, the country's largest and most populous island, to slow the spread of coronavirus.Ezra Acayan / Getty Images

American students stranded abroad struggle to get home

American students struggling to get out of Morocco were among the many travelers stranded abroad on Wednesday as airlines continue to ground flights and countries close their borders to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

Genevieve Serna, 20, found herself boarding a flight to London after a three-hour wait but even after making it to the U.K. her ordeal might not be over, as it remains unclear whether a transatlantic flight will be available.

"We are living in this constant state of chaos and uncertainty and every time we get our hopes up, we're disappointed," she said.

Read the full story here 

WASHINGTON — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said that the Senate will vote Wednesday on the emergency coronavirus House bill.

“I will vote to pass their bill," McConnell said on the Senate floor Wednesday morning. "This is the time for urgent, bipartisan action, and in this case, I do not believe we should let perfection be the enemy of something that would help even a subset of workers.”

Although the exact timing of the vote remains unclear, the bill is expected to pass. Read more here.

#GetMePPE: Frontline health care workers plead for basic protective equipment

Hundreds of health care workers are turning to social media to plead for basic protective equipment like masks, gowns and hand sanitizer. 

“Personal protective equipment (PPE) helps healthcare workers avoid spreading disease and stay healthy to take care of all of you,” tweeted Esther Choo, an emergency physician who first encouraged healthcare workers to share photos of the gear they need stay safe.

Registered nurses and doctors across the country have responded to her post, flooding Twitter with photos and sounding the alarm over the lack of protective gear available to them as they stand on the front lines of the coronavirus emergency.

Some health care workers worry the gear they are currently using may not be adequate to protect them: “Do these masks work? Not sure. Do they work if you re-use? Probably not. Do I wish I had a gown? Yes. Should I have been wearing eye protection last week? Yes” shared one primary care physician in Portland, Oregon along with a photo.

White House postpones Spain state visit

WASHINGTON — The White House is postponing an upcoming state visit by Spain's King Felipe VI and Queen Letizia because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The visit, including a lavish, black-tie state dinner hosted by President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump, had been announced for April 21.

Eurovision 2020 song contest canceled

The Eurovision song contest, one of the world's largest television events, will not take place this year due to the global coronavirus outbreak, organizers said Wednesday.

It had expected to draw up to 200 million viewers and a live audience of tens of thousands for the final on May 16.

Held annually since 1956, the contest features live musical numbers from each participating country, which are then voted on by their rivals in a complex system beloved by fans.

More than 50 countries have competed in recent editions, reaching beyond European borders to Israel and Australia. 

Hospitals facing surge are preparing for life-or-death decisions

Photo illustration of hospital scenes and the coronavirus.
Joan Wong for NBC News / Getty Images

Amid growing fears that the United States could face a shortage of ventilators for coronavirus patients, state officials and hospitals are quietly preparing to make excruciating decisions about how they would ration lifesaving care.

The plans may not be necessary, as officials are scrambling to secure more ventilators, which can make the difference between life and death for coronavirus patients in critical condition who are struggling to breathe. Social distancing and other mitigation efforts to slow the virus' spread could prevent hospitals from being overwhelmed. But hospitals are already huddling with state health officials to hammer out their policies to determine which coronavirus patients would get ventilators if they run short — essentially deciding whose lives to save first.

Read the full story here.

U.S. and Canada agree to close border to 'nonessential traffic,' Trump says

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump announced Wednesday that the United States is temporarily closing its northern border with Canada to all “non-essential traffic" due to the spread of the coronavirus.

In the announcement on Twitter, Trump indicated that it was agreed upon by Canada, as well.

Trump indicated in his announcement that it will not affect trade between the two countries but did not offer any additional details.

Click here for the full story.

Venice canal waters run clearer as Italy remains in lockdown

Image: Clearer waters in a Venice canal on Tuesday as a result of no motorboat traffic.
A Venice canal runs clearer than usual after motorboat traffic stopped during Italy's coronavirus lockdown. Andrea Pattaro / AFP - Getty Images

U2's Bono dedicates song to 'doctors, nurses, carers on the front line'

Medical staff wear protective suits in Moscow airport

Image:  Medical staff wearing protective suits ride down an escalator at Moscow's Sheremetyevo Airport
Medical staff wearing protective suits ride down an escalator at Moscow's Sheremetyevo International Airport on Wednesday as the number of confirmed cases inside the country reached 147. Dimitar Dilkoff / AFP - Getty Images

NYC mayor calls for military help

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio called for military assistance Wednesday morning as the city grapples with the coronavirus crisis.

"The military has extraordinary medical capacity," de Blasio said on the "TODAY" show. "It's needed in places like New York right now."

He also said that any decision to impose a "shelter in place" order on the city could only be made in agreement with the state. But he added that the idea should be "considered seriously starting today."

Dow sinks by 1,300 points at opening bell, despite trillion-dollar economic stimulus plans

Wall Street remained in the red on Wednesday, continuing a grim week that has seen all three major indices sink despite a series of drastic economic measures intended to address the growing fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average opened with a loss of around 1,300 points, or 6 percent, with the S&P 500 and Nasdaq down by around 5 percent each.

The losses come after the White House announced on Tuesday that it is seeking a $1 trillion fiscal stimulus package that would help small businesses and certain industry sectors and put cash directly in the hands of Americans.

While that temporarily boosted market morale, it has so far not been enough to stop a massive market sell-off. 

Read the full story here. 

Albania reports 2nd coronavirus death

Albania reported its second death from COVID-19 on Wednesday.

The 66-year-old patient, who died at a hospital, suffered from underlying diseases including cardiac problems and pulmonary edema, authorities said. 

Albania also reported that to date it has confirmed 59 cases of coronavirus infection out of 665 tested.

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Britain's 50th annual Glastonbury Festival cancelled

Savannah Guthrie anchors TODAY from her home in 'abundance of caution'

Savannah Guthrie joined much of the country in working from home on Wednesday.

She co-anchored "TODAY" from her basement for precautionary reasons after feeling a little under the weather.

"Here's what happened: I wasn't feeling my best, a little sore throat, some sniffles, I wouldn't have thought anything of it, but we are in different times, aren't we?" she said on-air. "So in an abundance of caution, and also to really model the vigilance the CDC is asking of all of us right now, we followed the advice of NBC's medical team."

Savannah joins Al Roker and Craig Melvin in working from home out of an abundance of caution in the wake of the news that a staffer for the 3rd hour of "TODAY" tested positive for coronavirus this week.

Read full story here

Pope encourages 'small gestures of attention' amid coronavirus crisis

Image: Pope Francis walks in a deserted Rome to pray at two shrines for the end of the coronavirus pandemic, in Rome
Pope Francis walks in a deserted Rome to pray at two shrines for the end of the coronavirus pandemic, in Rome, Italy on Sunday. Vatican Media / Reuters

Pope Francis urged Italians to commit “gestures of affection” Wednesday as millions have been forced to stay inside their homes as part of a nationwide lockdown that has entered its second week. 

“We must rediscover the concreteness of little things, small gestures of attention we can offer those close to us, our family, our friends,” the Pope told Italian newspaper La Repubblica. 

"These gestures of tenderness, affection, compassion, are minimal and tend to be lost in the anonymity of everyday life, but they are nonetheless decisive, important,” he added.

The pope walked Rome’s empty streets on Sunday to pray for the epidemic to end at two churches, as the Vatican said his Easter services will be held without the public for the first time.

Italy, the hardest-hit country in Europe, has more than 31,500 confirmed cases of coronavirus. More than 2,500 people have died, the highest number of deaths outside mainland China.

Trump administration warns of 20 percent unemployment rate

WASHINGTON — Trump administration officials warned Senate Republicans Tuesday that the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S. could cause the unemployment rate to reach 20 percent, according to two sources familiar with the discussion.

The warning came during a closed-door lunch on Capitol Hill in which Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin presented a White House stimulus plan that could cost at least $1 trillion. The prediction was first reported by Bloomberg News.

Read full story here.

Number of global coronavirus cases tops 200,000

The number of global coronavirus cases topped 200,000 on Wednesday, according to Johns Hopkins University.

The number of cases worldwide now stands at 201,634, with more than 8,000 deaths recorded. 

Meanwhile, the number of new cases in mainland China has slowed, with just 13 new confirmed infections on Tuesday, 12 of which were imported. Chinese officials are now focusing on stopping the virus from coming back into the country from abroad. 

The World Health Organization's differ slightly, and stand at 179,111 confirmed cases and 7,426 deaths globally, the organization said a report released Tuesday

The WHO called earlier this week on all countries to ramp up their testing programs as the best way to slow down the advance of the virus. 

Pop stars hold online concerts for fans forced inside by coronavirus

A slew of musicians turned to Instagram on Tuesday to entertain their fans, many of whom are in isolation because of the coronavirus pandemic. 

John Legend was joined by wife Chrissy Teigen for a live online concert on his Instagram page to raise awareness about how to slow the spread of coronavirus.

Country star Keith Urban performed his own half-hour concert on Instagram, accompanied by his wife, actress Nicole Kidman. During the concert, Urban said he was due to perform live on Tuesday, but coronavirus interrupted those plans, so he chose to play for his 2.3 million fans online instead. 

Coldplay lead singer Chris Martin also hosted a 20-minute livestream on Instagram and took song requests from fans. Martin said his band members were stuck in different countries because of border closures so they couldn't perform together. 

Italy further tightens restrictions on residents leaving home

As Italy enters its second week of nationwide quarantine, the government is imposing even stricter restrictions on daily life.

For those needing to go out, police have issued a new self-declaration form that requires residents to declare who they are, where they are going and for what reason. 

Italians will also have to declare that they did not test positive for the coronavirus and are not currently observing a 14-day quarantine.

According to Italy’s Interior Ministry, more than a million people and 415,000 shops have been checked by the police since March 11.

More than 35,000 people have been fined, with 7,000 people receiving fines on Tuesday alone. 

Saudi Arabia to convene virtual G-20 summit on coronavirus

Saudi Arabia will convene an extraordinary G-20 summit next week amid the growing coronvirus pandemic.

The summit, which will take place virtually, will focus on coordinating a response to COVID-19 and its human and economic effects.

Image: A delivery man rides to deliver food, as restaurants closed, following the outbreak of coronavirus in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
A delivery man rides to deliver food, as restaurants closed, following the outbreak of coronavirus in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on Tuesday. Ahmed Yosri / Reuters

Saudi Arabia, which chairs the Group of 20 major economies, said the group's leaders will put forward a coordinated set of policies to protect people and safeguard the global economy. 

Saudi Arabian officials said Tuesday that mosques would no longer be open for the customary five daily prayers or for Friday congregations as the number of cases in the country reached 118.

WHO: 'Aggressive measures' against coronavirus needed in Southeast Asia

Image: Volunteers use disinfectant to clean Wat Traimit temple in Bangkok on March 18, 2020, amid concerns over the spread of coronavirus.
Volunteers use disinfectant to clean Wat Traimit temple in Bangkok, Thailand on Wednesday amid concerns over the coronavirus outbreak.Mladen Antonov / AFP - Getty Images

The World Health Organization is asking countries in Southeast Asia to scale up their coronavirus response and take "aggressive measures" to combat the virus as the number of confirmed cases in the region has reached nearly 500.

“The situation is evolving rapidly," said the WHO's Southeast Asia Regional Director, Poonam Khetrapal Singh. "We need to immediately scale up all efforts to prevent the virus from infecting more people."

Eight of the 11 countries in the region have confirmed cases of COVID-19, the disease the virus causes, according to the WHO.

So far, Thailand has the most cases at 177, with Indonesia close behind with 134 and India with 125. Cases have also been confirmed in Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Maldives, Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan.

These numbers are increasing quickly, the WHO warned, and some countries are clearly heading towards community transmission of COVID-19.

Olympics make no sense if athletes can't come, Japan's deputy PM says

Even if Japan can contain the coronavirus outbreak, this summer's Olympic Games “would not make sense” if other countries cannot send their athletes, Japan's Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso said Wednesday.

“As the prime minister said, it’s desirable to hold the Olympics in an environment where everyone feels safe and happy. But that’s not something Japan alone can decide,” said Aso in Parliament. 

The International Olympic Committee said on Tuesday that it does not plan any “drastic” decisions about the Games, saying it remains fully committed to the event being staged in four months despite the global spread of the coronavirus.

Rio de Janeiro’s Christ the Redeemer statue closes

Rio de Janeiro’s Christ the Redeemer statue closed at day-end Tuesday and won’t reopen for at least a week after Brazil’s Chico Mendes Institute ordered the closure of all national parks it oversees, including the one home to the statue.

The move is designed to help contain the spread of the coronavirus and the illness it causes, COVID-19. The 125-foot-tall statue last year saw almost 2 million visitors.

Image:
Tourists pose for photos in front of the Christ the Redeemer statue during a foggy day in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Tuesday, March 17, 2020.Silvia Izquierdo / AP

Gun and ammunition sales rise amid coronavirus fears

Coronavirus starts to take a major toll on automakers

Most white-collar auto industry employees by Fiat Chrysler, Ford and General Motors are working from home this week, but Detroit’s Big 3 have formed a task force with the United Auto Workers Union to see if there’s a way also to protect hourly workers from the coronavirus without shutting down their U.S. parts and assembly lines.

With schools closed, major sports leagues suspending their seasons, large gatherings being canceled and the travel industry in freefall, automotive analysts are downgrading their 2020 sales forecasts. Morgan Stanley now anticipates U.S. demand for new cars will plunge to 15.5 million, down from last year’s 17.1 million vehicles.

There are a few, faint bright spots. 

Read the full story here.

As more Washington state deaths reported, Inslee OKs $200M coronavirus response

SEATTLE — As the death toll from COVID-19 in Washington state reached 54, Gov. Jay Inslee signed a measure drawing $200 million from the state’s emergency “rainy day” fund for the state’s coronavirus response.

Inslee said the funding bill “is really about protecting what we hold most dear, our lives and the lives of our loved ones.” The measure has $175 million going to the public health system and the remainder to a dedicated unemployment fund for coronavirus impacts. The bill contains an emergency clause and takes effect immediately.

The new spending comes as King County reported three more people have died, bringing its total to 46. Clark County health officials announced their first fatal cases, a husband and wife in their 80s, while Snohomish County said a fifth person has died. One person died in Grant County.

Washington has the highest number of deaths in the U.S., with most being associated with a nursing home in Kirkland. By Tuesday, the number of positive cases topped 1,000.

NYC mayor: 'Torrent' of new coronavirus cases coming, military aid may be needed

Visitation limits can't stop man's face-to-face chats with elderly father

Image: Charlie Johnson, Bernard Johnson
Charlie Johnson, left, visits with his father, Bernard Johnson, through the window of his assisted living facility in Anoka, MN on Sunday, March 15.Sandy Hamilton

A photo of a Minnesota man visiting with his father through the window at an assisted living facility illustrates the lengths some are going to in order to see their loved ones as nursing homes and assisted living facilities implement tougher restrictions amid the coronavirus pandemic.  

When Charlie Johnson found out that Whispering Pines, the center where father Bernard Johnson, 88, lives, was going into lockdown, he figured he would speak to him by phone every day.

"I said, 'You know actually, that’s good. I'm glad that they're doing that,'" Johnson told NBC News. 

But he quickly realized that talking by phone was not enough -- he needed to see his dad. So, he set up a chair Sunday outside his father's window. The two spoke by phone while maintaining a version of their usual face-to-face visits, something Charlie Johnson said would keep up for as long as the lockdown lasts. 

"They just had a normal conversation, like the window wasn’t even in between them," said Sandy Hamilton, the Whispering Pines employee who took the photo, which has more than 800,000 shares on Facebook.