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Senate, White House reach deal on $2 trillion stimulus plan

Here are the latest updates from around the world.

With roughly a third of the world under some form of lockdown, the White House and Senate leaders reached agreement on a landmark $2 trillion stimulus package to combat the economic impact of coronavirus.

The White House coronavirus coordinator asked people who have recently been in New York, where the death toll continues to climb, to quarantine themselves for 14 days, because they may have been exposed before leaving.

President Donald Trump is pushing for the country to get back to business by April 12, Easter Sunday, when he said he would like to see churches full of people. The World Health Organization, meanwhile, has warned that the U.S. could become the pandemic's new epicenter.

And as the number of cases in the U.K. reached 8,000 on Wednesday, Prince Charles, heir to the British throne, was confirmed to have tested positive for coronavirus.

Full coverage of the coronavirus outbreak

Download the NBC News app for latest updates on the coronavirus outbreak.

CORRECTION (March 25, 2020, 12:45 p.m. ET): An earlier version of the headline on this article misstated the status of the federal stimulus plan. The White House and Senate leaders have reached a deal, but the Senate has not yet passed the stimulus plan.

This live coverage has ended. Continue reading March 26 Coronavirus news.

U.S. deaths linked to COVID-19 passes 1,000

The United States has reached a grim milestone as the number of deaths linked to the coronavirus illness COVID-19 passed 1,000 in the country, according to a count of reports of cases and deaths by NBC News.

The number of reported deaths associated with the disease in the U.S. was at least 1,001 as of Thursday morning, according to that count, and there have been more than 68,100 reported cases.

Johns Hopkins University, which is also tracking cases, puts the number of deaths higher, and listed 1,050 deaths in the U.S. as of around 2:30 a.m.

Man killed in Missouri wanted to bomb hospital amid epidemic, FBI says

A man suspected of plotting to blow up a Missouri hospital and was killed in a shootout with FBI agents was apparently frustrated with local government action to stop the spread of coronavirus, FBI officials said Wednesday.

Timothy Wilson, 36, died Tuesday in Belton, Missouri, a suburb of Kansas City, after members of the FBI’s joint terrorism task force attempted to arrest him. The FBI says Wilson was the subject of a “months-long domestic terrorism investigation."

Wilson was armed, and the shooting occurred when the FBI tried to arrest him when he arrived to pick up what he thought was a car bomb, officials said. There was no actual bomb and authorities say no members of the public were ever in danger during the investigation.

FBI officials say Wilson was a potentially violent extremist known to express racial and religious hatred and antigovernment sentiment. He allegedly had been angered by stay-at-home orders designed to curb the spread of coronavirus, officials said.

Read the full story here.

California man charged in scheme about bogus COVID-19 'cure'

A California man was arrested Wednesday in what federal authorities say was a scheme to try to dupe investors using a phony cure for the coronavirus illness COVID-19.

Keith Lawrence Middlebrook, 53, was arrested by the FBI and charged with one count of attempted wire fraud, the U.S. Attorney's office in Los Angeles said in a statement.

He allegedly claimed to have personally developed a “patent-pending cure” and a treatment that prevents coronavirus infection, even though there is no specific treatment or vaccine, federal prosecutors said.

Middlebrook was arrested during a meeting in which he delivered pills to an undercover agent posing as an investor, the U.S. attorney's office said. He is being held in federal custody and an initial court appearance is expected Thursday.

As part of the pitch, Middlebrook allegedly claimed to one potential investor that NBA great Magic Johnson was a member of the board of directors for the purported company, which does not exist, but "Mr. Johnson confirmed to investigators that he knew nothing about Middlebrook’s company," according to prosecutors and court documents. 

Senate passes $2 trillion spending bill

WASHINGTON — The Senate overwhelmingly passed a massive stimulus package late Wednesday night meant to soften the economic blow of the coronavirus pandemic for American workers and businesses.

The bill includes billions of dollars in credit for struggling industries, a significant boost to unemployment insurance and direct cash payments to Americans. The fate of the bill now rests with the House, which House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said would not vote until Friday.

The final vote was 96-0.

Read the full story.

Mormon church closes all temples

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said Wednesday that all remaining open temples will temporarily close due to continued concerns about the coronavirus illness COVID-19.

The church, commonly known as the Mormon church, earlier this month suspended public gatherings worldwide.

The First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said Wednesday all temple activity church-wide would be suspended at the end of the day.

The First Presidency said the move was made after careful consideration and out of a desire to be good global citizens. Health officials stressed the need to decrease gatherings to slow the spread of the virus.

"This is a temporary adjustment, and we look forward to the day when the temples will reopen," church leaders said.

Trump approves disaster declaration for North Carolina

President Trump on Wednesday approved a disaster declaration for North Carolina as the state grapples with the coronavirus outbreak. 

There have been 504 cases in the state and one death as of March 25, according to the state's department of health

In less than a week, Trump has declared disasters in New York, California, Washington, Louisiana, Iowa and Florida. 

Americans coping with coronavirus are clogging toilets with wipes and T-shirts

Toilet paper moves out from a cutting machine at the Tissue Plus factory in Bangor, Maine, on March 18, 2020.Robert F. Bukaty / AP

The all-caps message on the new sign that went up in Redding, California, after the coronavirus came to town could not be any clearer: ONLY FLUSH TOILET PAPER.

It made its debut last week on the corner of Smile Place and Russell Street after a desperate soul clogged one of the city’s sewer lines by wiping with pieces of shredded T-shirt — and flushing them down the toilet, the city confirmed.

Read the full story here. 

'Top Chef' winner Floyd Cardoz dies at 59 of coronavirus complications

Image: Chef Floyd Cardoz
Chef Floyd Cardoz.Kris Connor / Getty Images for NYCWFF

NEW YORK — Chef Floyd Cardoz, who competed on “Top Chef,” won “Top Chef Masters” and operated successful restaurants in both India and New York, died Wednesday of complications from the coronavirus, his company said in a statement. He was 59.

Cardoz had traveled from Mumbai to New York through Frankfurt, Germany, on March 8. He was admitted a week ago to Mountainside Medical Center in Montclair, New Jersey, with a fever and subsequently tested positive for Covid-19, the statement said.

Read the full story here.

Watch: Barcelona police, residents applaud hospital workers

Citizens of Barcelona expressed their gratitude and appreciation for the efforts being made by doctors and nurses treating COVID-19 at Hospital Clinic, the city's main hospital. The daily tribute to health workers during the ongoing health crisis in Spain takes place at 8 p.m. throughout the country.

Army calls on retired medical personnel to assist coronavirus response

The Army is calling on retired medical personnel to help in its efforts to combat the coronavirus pandemic. 

"The U.S. Army is reaching out to gauge the interest of our retired officers, noncommissioned officers and soldiers who would be willing to assist with the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic response effort should their skills and expertise be required," it said in a message sent to retirees.

An Army spokesperson said "this extraordinary challenge requires equally extraordinary solutions."

Coronavirus could become seasonal like the flu, Fauci warns

There are increasing signs that COVID-19 will become a seasonal illness, Dr. Anthony Fauci said Wednesday during the White House's daily task force briefing.

"What we’re starting to see now in the Southern Hemisphere and southern African countries is that we’re having cases appearing as they go into their winter season," Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said. "If in fact they have a substantial outbreak, it will be inevitable that we need to be prepared" for the next cycle. 

It's been suggested that transmission of the coronavirus will slow in warmer months, similar to influenza, which typically spreads from November to April or May. Although it's far from certain that the spread of coronavirus will ease up in summer on its own, if it does, then the U.S. needs to be ready for its return.

"It totally emphasizes the need to do what we’re doing to develop a vaccine, testing it quickly and try to get it ready so we’ll have a vaccine available in the next cycle," Fauci said. 

Over 100 hospital employees in Boston test positive across 3 medical centers

More than 100 employees between three different Boston-area hospitals have tested positive for coronavirus, according to NBC Boston Wednesday. 

Brigham and Women's Hospital reported at least 45 employees have been diagnosed with COVID-19, the disease associated with coronavirus. Boston Medical Center said 15 of its employees have tested positive.

Massachusetts General Hospital, one of the top facilities in the country, said Wednesday that 41 of its staff members have tested positive as well. The hospital said in a statement to NBC Boston that "it is believed that the vast majority of these individuals did not contract the virus at work."

Read the full story here.

Cardi B says celebrities are causing confusion about the coronavirus

Image: Cardi B
Cardi B at the Tom Ford SS19 Show at the Park Avenue Armory during New York Fashion Week on Sept. 5, 2018Brent N. Clarke / Invision/AP file

Rapper Cardi B says celebrities who have publicly disclosed that they have tested positive for the coronavirus without having any symptoms are confusing the general public.

In a more than 4-minute-long video posted Tuesday to her Instagram account, the Bronx rapper said "45," referring to President Donald Trump, has advised people not to get tested for COVID-19, the disease associated with the coronavirus, if they do not have symptoms.

"But if a celebrity is saying, 'Hey, listen. I don't have no symptoms. I'm feeling good. I'm feeling healthy. I don't feel like nothing, but I went and got tested and I'm positive for the coronavirus,' that cause confusion," she said in the expletive-laden video during which she wears a mask. The video has been viewed more than 15 million times.

Read the full story here. 

Small businesses take desperate measures to get through pandemic

The new stimulus package includes hundreds of billions of dollars for small businesses, but is it enough? GoFundMe has launched a “Small Business Relief Initiative,” and many workers are having to get creative to survive.

As Florida coronavirus cases surge, spring breakers express regret

Image: Pompano Beach spring break
A group of spring break revelers pose for a photograph on the beach, on March 17, 2020, in Pompano Beach, Fla.Julio Cortez / AP

The clip went viral. “If I get corona, I get corona. At the end of the day, I’m not gonna let it stop me from partying,” Brady Sluder, a spring breaker in Miami, said last week.

Now, as the United States is at about 55,000 cases of the coronavirus, including more than 780 deaths, and is on track to become the new epicenter of the pandemic, he has revised his message: “Don’t be arrogant and think you’re invincible like myself.”

On Monday, Sluder posted a lengthy apology on his Instagramfirst reported by the Cincinnati Enquirer, in which he said he “wasn’t aware of the severity of my actions.”

Read the full story here. 

Airbnb hosts can get small business loans through federal relief bill

Airbnb hosts will be eligible to receive small business loans and unemployment insurance through the coronavirus relief bill. 

"We are deeply appreciative of bipartisan Senate and House leadership for recognizing there is a new sector of the workforce who depend on Airbnb for their monthly economic needs,” said Chris Lehane, Airbnb’s vice president of policy and communications.

The bill, as it is currently written, requires eligible borrowers to show that they need the loan because of the uncertainty of the economic crisis caused by the virus. The loan can only be used to maintain payroll, leases and utility payments.

Missouri man arrested for licking items at Walmart to mock coronavirus fears

Cody Pfister.
Cody Pfister.Warren Police

A 26-year-old Missouri man seen in a social media video licking items at a Walmart to mock fears of the coronavirus pandemic was arrested and charged with terrorist threats.

Cody Lee Pfister posted a video of himself licking deodorants at the Warrenton store on March 11, according to court documents. As he wiped his tongue across the packages he asked, "Who's scared of coronavirus," according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Read the full story here. 

Trump declares disasters for states including New York, California and Texas

President Trump announced he has approved major emergency declarations for New York, California, Washington, Iowa, Louisiana, Texas and Florida. He also referred to the Defense Production Act as a "great negotiating tool" to inspire companies to manufacture crucial medical supplies.

Photo: Long line for testing in New York

People wait in line Wednesday to get tested for COVID-19 at Elmhurst Hospital Center in New York.John Minchillo / AP

Rep. Katie Porter self-quarantines with fever, awaiting coronavirus test results

U.S. Rep. Katie Porter, D-Calif., announced Wednesday she's suffering from a 100-degree temperature and has been tested for coronavirus.

The freshman lawmaker is awaiting the results.

Porter won election in 2018 in the 45th Congressional District in Orange County, once a fortress for conservatives and the Republican Party. Now all six of the country's congressional seats are held by Democrats. 

The congresswoman's sister, Austin-based Dr. Emily Porter, recently posted a video explaining why it's so important so stay indoors and stay away from other people. 


Gov. Cuomo's office says Senate coronavirus bill is 'gross political manipulation'

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the $2 trillion stimulus bill negotiated by the Senate is "terrible," and his office argues it's because New Yorkers will be stuck with a bigger bill than other states.

"The gross political manipulation is obvious," said Dani Lever, Cuomo's communication director. The coronavirus crisis could blow a hole in the state's budget as big as $15 billion, Cuomo told reporters Wednesday. And only a fraction of that amount is going to be reimbursed to the state by the Senate bill, Lever said. 

"Based on initial reports, New York State government gets approximately $3.1 billion. As a percent of our total state budget — 1.9% — it is the second lowest amount in the nation. Literally 48 states get a higher percentage in funding than New York State," Lever said in a statement after Cuomo's remarks. 

He pointed to states with less COVID-19 cases — and more Republican voters — as evidence. 

"This is despite the fact that New York State is incurring the greatest costs as we have the highest number of cases in the country.  New York State has 30 times the number of cases as Texas's 1,031," Lever said.  "For example, Wyoming, which only has 40 confirmed COVID-19 cases, is getting 17.1 percent of their budget as a payment from the federal government."

Idaho issues stay-at-home order

Gov. Brad Little announced a stay-at-home order for Idaho on Wednesday and signed an extreme emergency declaration.

The order says residents must self-isolate, close non-essential businesses and it will last at least 21 days as the country combats the coronavirus pandemic. Little's order asks residents to limit their travel and use of public transit while maintaining good hygiene. 

Essential needs, such as grocery shopping and outdoor activity, are permitted so long as residents practice social distancing in accordance with guidelines from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention.

Pentagon orders no troop movements for 60 days

All U.S. troop movements overseas will halt for 60 days because of the coronavirus pandemic, according to defense officials. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper signed an order halting the movements on Wednesday.

The order states troops overseas cannot move back to the U.S. and troops in the U.S. cannot move overseas for two months. It applies to uniformed military, civilians and dependents.

Bindi Irwin marries at Australia Zoo with no guests due to coronavirus pandemic

Image: Bindi Irwin with fiance Chandler Powell
Bindi Irwin with fiance Chandler Powell at the annual Steve Irwin Gala Dinner on Nov. 9, 2019 in Brisbane, Australia.Bradley Kanaris / Getty Images file

Bindi Irwin went ahead with her wedding at the Australia Zoo to her longtime boyfriend Chandler Powell, though with major changes due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Irwin, 21, said on social media Wednesday that the couple chose to go ahead with the wedding that had been planned for almost a year but didn't have any guests in an effort to keep everyone safe. The wildlife conservationist said it was a "very difficult decision" for them.

"We wish all of our friends and family could have been there with us, however it’s lovely that we will be able to share photos and videos," Irwin said. "Right now we’re encouraging the world to hold onto hope and love, which will carry us forward during this profound time in history."

Read the full story here.

Pink eye may be a rare symptom

The new coronavirus can spread through the eyes, prompting the world’s largest association of eye doctors to urge its members to be aware of the warning signs in patients.

The pathogen may cause pink eye, or conjunctivitis — inflammation of the clear tissue covering the white part of the eye — in about 1-3 percent of infected people, the American Academy of Ophthalmology said in an updated alert Tuesday.

Virus particles have been found in eye secretions, it previously warned, but a study published Wednesday suggests the risk of virus transmission through tears is low.

Read more

1 million in California file for unemployment as state feels economic hit of coronavirus

One million Californians filed unemployment claims this month, as America's most populous state braces for an economic blow from the coronavirus pandemic, officials said Wednesday.

In addition to the unemployment data, Gov. Gavin Newsom also revealed that:

  • At least 2,535 Californians have tested positive for the deadly virus, up 17 percent from 24 hours ago;
  • Those positive cases include 37 people who are 17 or younger;
  • At least  66,800 tests have been conducted so far in the state;
  • While the elderly are particularly vulnerable, about 51 percent of those California cases are of people between the ages of 18 and 49;
  • The coronavirus has taken the lives of 53 Californians, as of Wednesday morning.
  • Four of the state's five biggest banks, Wells Fargo, U.S. Bank, Citibank and Chase, have all agreed to 90-day mortgage waivers - and Bank of America 30 days - for borrowers impacted by the coronavirus. 

Netanyahu says Israel may have to 'impose a complete lockdown'

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced Wednesday that the government may have to "impose a complete lockdown, except for essential needs such as food and medicines." 

The longtime leader of Israel said that the country had already taken drastic steps, but that the confirmed number of coronavirus cases was doubling every three days. It was not clear what a complete lockdown would mean for Israel. 

"In two weeks we are liable to find ourselves with thousands of patients many of whom will be in danger of death," Netanyahu said. 

As of Wednesday, Israel had 2,030 confirmed cases and five deaths. 

Dow closes with modest gains, after whiplash day digesting fiscal stimulus package

Wall Street's mini-rally lost steam Wednesday, as negotiations for the $2 trillion stimulus package that seemed a done deal shuddered to a halt.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average, which had gained 1,200 points earlier in the day, tumbled in the last few minutes of trading after Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., said he would “put a hold on this bill until stronger conditions are imposed on the $500 billion corporate welfare fund.”

The S&P 500 ended the day up by just over 1 percent and the Nasdaq was down by almost 0.5 percent.

Aid groups ‘race against the clock’ to prevent COVID-19 outbreak in refugee camps

For the world’s most vulnerable communities -- from the Greek island of Lesvos to Jordan’s refugee camps -- aid groups like the Norwegian Refugee Council are sounding the alarm on insufficient resources.

“We’re now in a frantic race against the clock and against the pandemic to try to get a minimum of water and sanitation and decongestion, shelter to the most vulnerable groups before it is too late,” said Jan Egeland, Secretary General for the Norwegian Refugee Council, in Oslo, whose organization serves nine million displaced people globally.

From supplies like water and sanitation material to following basic precautionary measures like hand washing in overcrowded areas, these groups are urging governments to step in and help before the 25 million refugees and more than 70 million displaced people worldwide are affected. 

“Even things like dispensing hand sanitizer, there’s simply not enough,” Katie Muirhead, who heads a medical non-governmental organization and serves refugees on Greece’s island of Lesvos, told NBC News. “Unless we can find somewhere we can donate…and how long would that last anyway? That’s sort of a band aid solution.”

Minnesota orders its citizens to stay home

Gov. Tim Walz on Wednesday ordered the 5.6 million residents Minnesota — other than those performing essential services — to stay home in the state's ongoing battle against coronavirus.

"We must take bold action to save the lives of Minnesotans," he said in a statement. "As a former Command Sergeant Major in the Army National Guard, I believe in having a plan — which is why I’m directing Minnesotans to stay at home and limit their movements to essential services." 

As of Wednesday afternoon, there were 287 confirmed cases and at least 1 death due to coronavirus. Earlier this week, U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., said that her husband has been diagnosed with the coronavirus. 

Afternoon roundup of coronavirus coverage

More than 140 nursing homes have reported coronavirus cases. Federal officials won’t say which ones. [The Washington Post]

Newest shortage in New York: The city is running out of dogs to foster [Bloomberg]

How Ford is using seat ventilation fans to build thousands of respirators [Road and Track]

Photo: Drive-by birthday celebration

Image: Dana Baer, right, and her son, Jacob, wish Avery Slutsky a happy birthday during a drive-by birthday celebration to maintain social distancing in West Bloomfield Township, Mich., on March 24, 2020.
Dana Baer, right, and her son, Jacob, wish Avery Slutsky a happy birthday during a drive-by birthday celebration to maintain social distancing in West Bloomfield Township, Mich., on Tuesday.Emily Elconin / Reuters

Apple chief says company has sourced 10M masks

Tony Awards, Grammys Rock and Roll Hall of Fame event postponed

The 74th Tony Awards and the Recording Academy's 2020 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame event have been postponed due to the coronavirus.

A new date for the Tonys — which was supposed to take place June 7 at the Radio City Music Hall in New York City — has yet to be announced, according to a spokesperson. 

The 2020 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame event will now take place on Nov. 7, instead of May 2, at the same location: the Public Hall Auditorium in Cleveland. 

Broadway theaters began canceling show in mid-March due to the coronavirus outbreak, and since then the theaters have shut down. Meanwhile, a handful of Broadway stars have tested positive for COVID-19 in recent weeks, including Aaron Tveit and Matt Doyle. 

Trump approves disaster declaration for Florida and Texas

President Donald Trump approved disaster declarations for Florida and Texas on Wednesday as the coronavirus pandemic continues to spread, opening up additional sources of federal funding to the states' governments to respond to the outbreak.

The two massive states are seeing a growth in the number of cases — 1,034 in Texas and 1,467 in Florida as of Wednesday. Meanwhile, 11 people have died of the disease in Texas, while 22 have died in Florida. 

BuzzFeed to cut salaries, CEO to go unpaid

BuzzFeed CEO Jonah Peretti has informed the vast majority of staff that they will receive a pay cut for the months of April and May as the company struggles to endure revenue losses stemming from the coronavirus pandemic.

Peretti himself said he would not be taking a salary for several months. BuzzFeed employees who are making less than $125,000 a year — roughly 70 percent of staff — will see a pay cut of less than 10 percent, according to Peretti's memo. Executives will take pay cuts between 14 and 25 percent of their current salaries.

The move comes as media companies large and small suffer declines in advertising revenue.

"We’ve been monitoring the human and economic impact of the coronavirus and it’s clear we will see a major economic downturn in the next few months," Peretti wrote in the memo, a copy of which was obtained by NBC News.

Hundreds of police officers exposed to coronavirus

Hundreds of police officers have been exposed to the coronavirus, and confirmed infections are expected to climb as testing becomes more widely available, according to the National Police Foundation, which launched an online data portal tracking the virus’ spread through American law enforcement agencies.

The tracking tool, which relies on agencies' voluntary reports, so far only reflects a tiny portion of the 18,000 or so police departments across the country. But it provides a glimpse of the virus’ potential to deplete their ranks. As of Wednesday afternoon, about 300 officers had been exposed, and 250 officers were unable to work, according to the portal.  

The numbers do not include the New York Police Department, where more than 100 officers have tested positive, and more than 2,000 employees have called out sick.

James Burch, the foundation’s president, said police are desperate to get officers tested quickly so they can more effectively quarantine those who have been infected. Some agencies have put large numbers of officers in isolation because they may have been exposed.

The data portal also measures police shortfalls in protection equipment, including masks and gloves.

"The data shows a lot of officers exposed but not a lot diagnosed," Burch said. "We assume that's because there's not a lot of testing out there yet, but once testing improves we might see an increase."

What is a ventilator? The 'critical resource' that is currently in short supply

The coronavirus is straining the global health care system, with one piece of lifesaving medical equipment in particularly scarce supply: mechanical ventilators.

A ventilator helps patients who cannot properly breathe on their own by pumping air into their lungs through a tube that has been surgically inserted into their windpipes. Because COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, affects the respiratory system, the number of hospitalized patients in need of breathing assistance has exploded since the pandemic began.

Read more. 

Photo: Lone Metro rider in DC

A rider waits on a platform at the Archives station Wednesday in Washington, D.C. Weekday rail ridership across the Metro system is down nearly 90% due to the coronavirus pandemic.Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

Entire senior home in New Jersey, 94 people, presumed to have coronavirus

A resident of St. Joseph's Senior Nursing Home in Woodbridge, New Jersey, being moved to another facility for treatment.
A resident of St. Joseph's Senior Nursing Home in Woodbridge, New Jersey, being moved to another facility for treatment.NBC 4 New York

An entire New Jersey nursing home is presumed to be infected with coronavirus, forcing everyone from the facility to be evacuated on Wednesday, officials said.

At least 24 of 94 residents and patients of St. Joseph’s Senior Home in Woodbridge, about 20 miles south of Newark, have tested positive for coronavirus and the other 70 clients are also believed to have the virus, authorities said.

The first positive came back on March 17 and at least one positive test has come back "everyday thereafter," said John Hagerty, a spokesman for the city of Woodbridge.

Read in full here.

American Samoa’s coronavirus conundrum: No way to test

As the coronavirus was rapidly spreading across the continental United States last week, a person living thousands of miles away in American Samoa developed what appeared to be symptoms of the virus.

Health officials In the U.S. territory located deep in the South Pacific rushed to determine if its first potential COVID-19 case would turn out positive. But they had one problem: they couldn’t analyze the samples.

Read the full story here.

Italian death toll passes 7,500

More than 7,500 people have now died after testing positive for coronavirus in Italy, a spokesperson for Italy's Civil Protection Agency told NBC News Wednesday.

Another 683 deaths had been recorded since Tuesday, bringing the total number to 7,503, they said, adding that there were almost 75,000 confirmed cases in the country. 

Italian doctors are being forced to choose who will receive desperately needed ventilators and who won't in the hardest-hit nation in Europe.

Authorities in the country are also investigating whether a Champions League soccer game in Milan in February dramatically increased the spread of the disease.

San Francisco reports its first coronavirus death

San Francisco reported its first coronavirus death, after a man in his 40s passed away from the disease, officials said Tuesday. 

“My condolences go out to this San Franciscan and their loved ones," Mayor London Breed said in a statement. "It is a sad day, and we need to pull together as a City to do everything in our power to reduce the likelihood of additional deaths in our community." 

At least 178 San Franciscans had tested positive for coronavirus by Wednesday morning, according to the public health department.

World Health Organization cautions on reopening schools, businesses

Biden praises coronavirus bill agreement but calls for oversight

Former Vice President Joe Biden said Wednesday that he supports the $2 trillion coronavirus spending agreement reached by the White House and Senate leaders earlier in the day, but called for “meticulous” oversight of the bill if it is passed.

"We're going to need to make sure the money gets out quickly into people's pockets and to keep close watch on how corporations are using taxpayer funds,” the 2020 presidential candidate said on a virtual press briefing. He added that “this bill can keep workers on payrolls. That’s huge."

What's in the $2 trillion coronavirus bill? Here's how it could help you.

The White House and Senate leadership came to an agreement early Wednesday morning on a $2 trillion bill aimed at providing economic relief to workers and businesses hurt by the coronavirus pandemic.

The Senate is expected to release the final text of the third coronavirus spending bill and could vote on it later Wednesday, sending it to the House for consideration.

Here's what we know so far about what's expected to be in the bill and how it might help average Americans.

Louisiana pastor defies order against large gatherings, draws over 1,000 people to services

A Louisiana pastor is apparently defying the governor's order against gatherings of more than 50 people by hosting over 1,000 churchgoers at a service Sunday and bringing together hundreds at another service Tuesday, according to the pastor and local media.

The pastor, Tony Spell of Life Tabernacle Church in Baton Rouge, said he does not believe his congregation is at risk of getting COVID-19, the disease associated with the coronavirus, according to CBS affiliate WAFB.

"It’s not a concern," Spell told the outlet. "The virus, we believe, is politically motivated. We hold our religious rights dear and we are going to assemble no matter what someone says."

Read the full story here.

NYU seeks to graduate medical students early in fight against pandemic

New York University said it will allow its medical students to graduate early so the newly established doctors can help in the battle against the coronavirus.

The private university said that the move is "in response to Governor Cuomo’s directive to get more physicians into the health system more quickly," according to NBC New York. Only students who receive the approval of the state's Department of Education and other regulatory bodies will be allowed to finish early, the outlet reported.

Read the full story here. 

Photo: Makeshift morgue set up outside NYC hospital

Workers build a makeshift morgue Wednesday outside of Bellevue Hospital in New York City to handle an expected surge in coronavirus victims.
Workers build a makeshift morgue Wednesday outside Bellevue Hospital in New York City to handle an expected surge in coronavirus victims. Bryan R. Smith / AFP via Getty Images

Jerusalem's Church of Holy Sepulchre closed over coronavirus

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, considered one of the holiest sites in Christianity, has temporarily closed as part of a measure introduced by the government to shut down all places of worship for a week starting Wednesday, according to church officials. 

Though it is not yet clear whether the closing of the church will extend beyond a week, the timing of the closing is significant as the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is identified by Christians as the site of the crucifixion and tomb of Jesus. The church has long been the center of Christian pilgrimages, especially during the Easter season. 

Church leaders on Saturday urged attendees to maintain physical distance from one another and instructed them not to enter the church in groups of more than 10 people to stop the spread of coronavirus, according to Reuters. 

Maryland governor asks Trump for presidential disaster declaration

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said in a news conference on Wednesday that he has asked President Donald Trump for a disaster declaration for his state.

"This disaster declaration will be another important step in our aggressive and coordinate response to COVID-19," said Hogan, a Republican.

The request comes as Hogan confirmed 423 cases of the coronavirus in Maryland, with 74 additional positive cases coming in the last 24 hours. The governor also said that a man in his sixties who died on Tuesday is the fourth coronavirus-related death in the state. 

New York governor estimates apex of hospital need still 21 days away

New York state has not reached the apex of coronavirus hospitalizations, with Gov. Andrew Cuomo warning Wednesday that it might not come for another 21 days, around mid-April.

That has left the state scrambling to secure enough beds and equipment, including ventilators, Cuomo said. "We're still on the way up the mountain," he said during his daily news briefing in the state capital of Albany.

But, the governor added, social distancing and isolation efforts in New York City seem to be having a positive effect as data shows hospitalization rates this week may be moving at a slower pace day over day.

The governor also said:

  • The state's "single greatest challenge" is procuring 30,000 ventilators. The state has 4,000 ventilators in the existing hospital system, and it has so far purchased 7,000 others. The federal government has sent 4,000.
  • The state has about 3,000 intensive care unit beds with ventilator capabilities, when it needs 40,000. A total of 140,000 hospital beds may be needed.
  • The state has 30,811 total cases of the coronavirus with 5,146 of them new. Of those, 17,856 of the total cases are in New York City with 2,952 of them new.
  • New York City will begin piloting the closing of streets to car traffic so that there is more room for pedestrians. Cuomo added that people are being asked to employ social distancing at playgrounds and parks on a voluntary basis, but if people are caught gathering, those places will be closed.

British neighbors sing 'Happy Birthday' to quarantined child

Neighbors on a British street hung out of windows and stood in gardens to sing "Happy Birthday" in unison to Sophia Thomas as she celebrated turning 8 in quarantine on Wednesday.

The display of community affection in Southampton, southern England, for the child spending her birthday indoors as part of Britain's ongoing lockdown response to the coronavirus was captured and shared online by her father, Rob Thomas, and has now been widely shared online, he said.

"Sophia is blown away, absolutely blown away by it. ... It's all going a bit crazy," he told NBC News.

Sophia's parents put out a request on a neighborhood WhatsApp group for cards and virtual messages to cheer up their daughter and were taken aback when the neighborhood agreed to the sing-a-long.  

New York City crime rates plummet, according to police stats

New Yorkers are staying put and committing less crimes, according to new NYPD statistics. Overall, crime in the city had been on a sharp rise in 2020 compared to last year, but the past week has seen a crash in the number of incidents. 

Citywide crime is down almost 17 percent compared to the same week last year, with dramatic drops in violent crime. Shootings are down 23.5 percent, rapes down 69 percent and assaults down 9 percent. Crime in the subway, which had grown significantly since the start of the year, was down 33 percent last week, compared to the year before.

Criminals are still stealing cars, though. Car thefts were up 52 percent compared to the same week last year.

Tips from astronauts: What's the best way to handle isolation?

As many people around the globe are adapting and learning to live in confinement, those who have lived as remote as it gets have been offering tips. Astronauts like Scott Kelly, Peggy Whitson and Chris Hadfield have recently shared their advice for isolated living in the age of COVID-19.

Scott Kelly — who lived for nearly a year aboard the International Space Station — wrote in a New York Times opinion piece that he suggested following a schedule, getting a hobby and keeping a journal.

Peggy Whitson, who has spent more time in space than any other American, said that team purpose is crucial when coping with solitude on CBS This Morning. "COVID-19 gives us a higher purpose — much like being in space does — because we are saving lives by quarantining," she said.

Russia’s constitutional vote indefinitely postponed as coronavirus numbers rise

Image: Moscow
A man wearing a face mask walks in central Moscow on Thursday. Yuri Kadobnov / AFP - Getty Images

Russia's nationwide vote on constitutional amendments slated for April 22 was postponed Wednesday as the number of coronavirus cases in the country surged. 

President Vladimir Putin said the vote has been put off "until a later date" without offering more specifics.

He also announced that next week will be a national paid holiday, with no one but essential personnel going to work. 

"Believe me, the safest thing to do right now is to be at home," Putin added. 

The number of coronavirus cases in Russia surged to 658 on Wednesday, government officials said. 

Trump's businesses barred from bailout money in Senate coronavirus bill

President Donald Trump will not be eligible for any federal assistance for his businesses as part of the coronavirus stimulus package that the Senate agreed upon early Wednesday morning, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said in a letter to Democratic senators summarizing the bill.

In his summary, Schumer said that the bill will include a provision to "prohibit businesses controlled by the president, vice president, members of Congress, and heads of executive departments from receiving loans or investments from Treasury programs."

That measure came out of negotiations on a portion of the bill providing $500 billion in loans to distressed industries. That fund would be under the Treasury Department's control and could include bailout payments to hard-hit businesses like hotels and cruise lines.

Read more here.

Photo: Disinfecting the Pyramids

Image: Giza pyramids
Workers disinfect the Giza pyramids necropolis on the outskirts of Cairo on Wednesday as protective a measure against the spread of the coronavirus.Khaled Desouki / AFP - Getty Images

Georgia hospital worker found dead at home with her kid

A 42-year-old hospital worker in Georgia who had coronavirus was found dead in her home with her 4-year-old child by her body.

Diedre Wilkes' body was discovered Thursday in the living room of her home in Newnan, about 40 miles southwest of Atlanta, after a family member called the Coweta County Sheriff's Office requesting a welfare check, the coroner, Richard Hawk, told NBC News on Wednesday.

Read the full story here

Employee at FEMA operations center tests positive

A Federal Emergency Management Agency employee, who works in the agency's operations center at its headquarters in Washington, D.C., has tested positive for COVID-19, according to an internal email obtained by NBC News.

The third floor of the headquarters, where the employee worked, was shut down for cleaning and everyone else was temporarily told to work remotely, according to the email sent Tuesday night. The floor is part of the operations center for the agency's national emergency response to coronavirus. This morning employees were back at work, spacing out their desks. 

Employees who are required to continue working in the office are undergoing temperature screening and implementing social distancing.

In a statement, the agency noted the positive test, saying that "at no time did this individual or any others known to have contact with them, come within six feet of the Vice President or any other Task Force principal for any period of time" during the White House group's visit to the agency headquarters two days ago.

Thailand imposes state of emergency to control virus

Image: Thailand
Thai people wearing protective masks ride through a wholesale market in Bangkok, Thailand on Wednesday. Gemunu Amarasinghe / AP

Thailand's prime minister announced a state of emergency on Wednesday as the country tries to contain the spread of the coronavirus. 

In a nationwide address, Prayuth Chan-ocha said emergency measures will come into force on Thursday and last until at least the end of April.

Chan-ocha said large gatherings will be banned, and people under the age of 5 and over 70 will be asked to stay home.

Public venues including gyms, nightclubs and massage parlors will also be shut down. 

Thailand has so far reported 827 coronavirus cases and four deaths. 

Former Fed chairman sees ‘very sharp’ recession

Former Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke sounded an optimistic tone on the longer-term state of the economy, predicting in a CNBC interview Wednesday that while the U.S. is facing an acute recession, it shouldn’t last.

“It is possible there’s going to be a very sharp, short, I hope short, recession in the next quarter because everything is shutting down of course,” he said on “Squawk Box.”

“If there’s not too much damage done to the workforce, to the businesses during the shutdown period, however long that may be, then we could see a fairly quick rebound.”

During the financial crisis that exploded in 2008, Bernanke guided the Fed through its efforts to save the economy.

Read the full article here.

Obama: Social distancing needs to stay in place until testing is more widely available

Former President Barack Obama tweeted Wednesday that current social distancing policies need to stay in place until testing for the novel coronavirus is more widespread.

Obama's tweet comes as President Donald Trump has pushed in recent days for the U.S. economy to begin ramping up by Easter.

"These are the burdens our medical heroes already face in NYC," Obama tweeted, linking to a New Yorker magazine story detailing the struggles from inside New York City's stressed hospitals. "It's only going to get harder across the country. Another reason to maintain social distancing policies at least until we have comprehensive testing in place. Not just for our sake — for theirs."

In recent weeks, Obama has made use of his large social media platforms to address the coronavirus pandemic, posting like never before since leaving office. The former president has posted messages promoting safety measures, explained the reasoning behind strong new restrictions to combat the virus and shared stories he finds inspiring of individuals and organizations taking action during the crisis.

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange denied bail after lawyers claim virus risk

Image: WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange arrives at the Westminster Magistrates Court, after he was arrested in London
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange arrives in court after he was arrested in London last spring. Hannah McKay / Reuters fo;e

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who is fighting extradition from Britain to the United States, was denied bail on Wednesday after his lawyers said he should be released from prison because of the coronavirus outbreak.

The 48-year-old is wanted by the United States on 18 criminal counts of conspiring to hack government computers and violating an espionage law and says he could spend decades in prison if convicted.

Judge Vanessa Baraitser at Westminster Magistrates' Court ruled that he should remain in Belmarsh Prison in London.

Waffle House 'Index Red'

Waffle House has declared "Index Red," as it closes more than fifth of its stores in response to the coronavirus pandemic. 

Waffle House's approximately 2,000 restaurants are usually open 24 hours, seven days a week, 365 days a year. Now, 418 locations are closed, a Waffle House Facebook post said Tuesday.

The Waffle House Index refers to the measure of destruction caused by a natural disaster based on how many Waffle Houses remain open or have closed. 

N.J. man charged with terroristic threats for allegedly coughing on grocery store worker

A New Jersey man was charged with harassment and making terroristic threats after allegedly deliberately coughing on a Wegmans grocery store employee and saying he had the coronavirus.

George Falcone, 50, of Freehold, in central Jersey, was charged Tuesday by the New Jersey attorney general with making the threats Sunday at a Wegmans in Manalapan.

Falcone was standing close to the employee near the store's prepared food section when the worker asked him to move back, the state attorney general said in a statement. Instead, Falcone stepped closer to her, leaned in and coughed, the statement said. He laughed, telling the woman he was infected with the coronavirus and also telling two other employees they were "lucky" to have jobs.

Read the full story here.

Tide of tourists admiring Japan's cherry blossoms turns to trickle

Image: Osaka native Hiroshi Nakajima, 65, gazes at the cherry blossoms in Osaka Park, in Osaka, Japan.
Osaka native Hiroshi Nakajima, 65, gazes at the cherry blossoms in Osaka Park.Cullen Bird

Normally the start of the cherry blossom season in Osaka Castle Park in Osaka, Japan, would be greeted by crowds of tourists walking up the paths and gates to see the its cherry trees in bloom.

But the few tourists seen now are a fraction of the usual crowds, even for a Monday morning, said Yasuyuki Funabiki, a volunteer tour guide with the Osaka Systematized Good-Will Guides Club.

“Only 1 percent,” Funabiki said, comparing the usual crowds to the handful of tourists and locals milling around the summit of the park.

Read the full story here.

Markets barely budge, despite long-awaited passing of massive stimulus plan

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose by just 350 points at Wednesday's opening bell, as investors parsed whether the $2 trillion stimulus package would be able to keep pace with the compounding economic effects of the coronavirus outbreak.

Just one day after the Dow notched its biggest one-day point gain ever in anticipation of the bill's approval, the blue-chip index slumped overnight, falling by 200 points before rallying slightly Wednesday morning.

The S&P 500 and Nasdaq were both up by around 1 percent each.

Arizona mayors slam governor's edict keeping golf courses open

Five different mayors in Arizona sent a letter to Gov. Doug Ducey Tuesday cover his decision to classify some businesses like golf courses as “essential” during the coronavirus pandemic.

The mayors, including of the cities of Tucson and Flagstaff, sent the Republican governor a letter saying his executive order should not have included golf courses and payday lenders in the definition of “essential services” that cannot be shut down in response to the outbreak. They also requested a statewide moratorium on evictions and foreclosures.

Ducey has agreed to pause evictions for 120 days for renters who are quarantining or struggling from the economic fallout.

U.K. launches self-reporting app to track spread of virus

Researchers in the U.K. have launched an app to help track the spread of COVID-19 in order to explore, in real time, who is most at risk. 

The Covid Symptom Tracker app asks participants to take one minute a day to report on whether they feel healthy, and to answer questions on a wide range of symptoms.

Researchers believe the data from the study will reveal important information about the symptoms, and why some people develop more severe or fatal disease while others have only mild symptoms.

Shoppers in India embrace social distancing amid world's largest lockdown

Shoppers in India's Gujurat state were waiting in circles to maintain social distancing as the country began the world's largest lockdown on Wednesday. 

More than 1.3 billion people, or nearly one-fifth of the world's population, have been told to stay inside. 

“To save India and every Indian, there will be a total ban on venturing out,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi said Tuesday night, acknowledging that the 21-day lockdown would be a major blow to the economy but saying that the alternative could set the country back 21 years.

Coronavirus misinformation makes neutrality a distant memory for tech companies

Image: Coronavirus Pandemic Causes Climate Of Anxiety And Changing Routines In America
A passenger wearing a surgical mask uses his iPhone on New York City subway on Wednesday, March 18. Robert Nickelsberg / Getty Images

Open up Instagram these days and you might be bombarded with calls to "Stay Home." On YouTube, you may see a link to a government website about the coronavirus. Or go to Twitter and try to find the phrase "social distancing is not effective." It might be there, but probably not for long — because Twitter has banned the phrase as harmful.

A few years ago, these kinds of warnings and filters would have been hard to imagine. Most major consumer technology platforms embraced the idea that they were neutral players, leaving the flow of information up to users.

Now, facing the prospect that hoaxes or misinformation could worsen a global pandemic, tech platforms are taking control of the information ecosystem like never before. 

Read the full story here.

Coronavirus confessions: share your anonymous stories

In time of social distancing, self-isolation and quarantining, NBC News would like to hear from our readers about their experience with COVID-19. 

Our readers can submit their own stories about childcare, family, dating, work and more during the pandemic. 

Check out some confessions and share your own here

Spain's death toll surpasses China

A Spanish soldier stands next to beds set up at a temporary hospital in Barcelona on Wednesday.
A Spanish soldier stands next to beds set up at a temporary hospital in Barcelona on Wednesday.Pau Barrena / AFP via Getty Images

Spain has surpassed China in nationwide deaths from coronavirus and is now second only to Italy, according to numbers released by the government on Wednesday. 

The country's health officials reported 738 new deaths Wednesday, bringing the total to 3,434.

The outbreak began in China, which on Wednesday reported a total of 3,281 deaths. Italy, Europe's hardest-hit country and the pandemic's current epicenter, has reported 6,820. 

NBA star Karl-Anthony Towns says his mom is in a coma because of coronavirus

Minnesota Timberwolves player Karl-Anthony Towns says his mom is in a medically-induced coma because of coronavirus.

The NBA star announced on social media his mom has been suffering from a high fever, a cough and was having trouble breathing. She was put on a ventilator before being placed in a coma.

Towns encouraged his fans to take the outbreak seriously and said he made the video so "people understand the severity" of the outbreak.

"This disease needs to not be taken lightly. Please protect your family, your loved ones, your friends, yourself, practice social distancing, please don't be in places with a lot of people," he said.

"We're gonna keep fighting," Towns said. "We are gonna beat it, we are gonna win. I hope my story helps."

U.S. hospitals brace for unprecedented shortage of nurses

As hospitals around the United States prepare for a surge of tens of thousands of coronavirus patients, they are trying to fill thousands of "crisis" nursing jobs, particularly intensive care unit and emergency room positions.

Even before the coronavirus outbreak, several U.S. states were experiencing nursing shortages, and without a dramatic increase in staffing, hospital administrators and advocates fear the health care system will not be able to handle the demand.

“The American Nurses Association is concerned about the pending shortage of nurses to care for COVID-19 patients," said Ernest Grant, the group's present, in a statement to NBC News. "It is critical that healthcare facilities and the federal government do all they can to protect this essential workforce.”

Read the full story here. 

Jackson Browne says he tested positive

Image: Singer Jackson Browne performs onstage at the 33rd Annual TEC Awards during NAMM Show 2018 at the Hilton Anaheim
Singer Jackson Browne performs in Anaheim, California on Jan. 27, 2018. Jesse Grant / Getty Images file

Singer-songwriter Jackson Browne says he has tested positive for coronavirus.

The 71-year-old singer, whose hits include "The Pretender" and "Doctor My Eyes," told Rolling Stone that he got tested after he began feeling ill recently. He said he believes he might have gotten infected during a recent trip to New York for the annual Love Rocks NYC benefit, which was held March 12. 

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee said his symptoms are mild, and he is self-quarantining at home. He urged younger people to take part in the global response to stop the spread of the virus. "That means not going anywhere, not getting into contact with anybody, not seeing anybody.”

British parliament set to close for at least four weeks on Wednesday

Image: A woman walks opposite the Houses of Parliament, by the River Thames, as the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues. London,
A woman walks opposite the Houses of Parliament, by the River Thames, on Wednesday as the spread of coronavirus continues.Hannah Mckay / Reuters

Britain’s parliament is set to close and suspend sitting for at least four weeks starting Wednesday as part of the government’s efforts to slow the spread of coronavirus.

Parliament was due to close for a three-week Easter break on March 31, but a motion on Wednesday has proposed that the closure begins a week earlier as fears grow that politicians and staff are being put at risk by continuing to work.

The iconic Palace of Westminster, sitting along the River Thames in central London, had already closed to visitors and reduced the number of lawmakers present with those inside spacing out along benches in accordance with social distancing rules.

Prince Charles tests positive for coronavirus

Prince Charles has tested positive for coronavirus, his royal household said Wednesday.

The Prince of Wales, 71, who is first in line to the British throne, is experiencing mild symptoms "but otherwise remains in good health," Clarence House said in a statement.

“It is not possible to ascertain from whom the prince caught the virus owing to the high number of engagements he carried out in his public role during recent weeks," the statement added. 

Charles, the eldest son of 93-year-old Queen Elizabeth II, is now self-isolating and working from home at the Balmoral Estate in Scotland. His wife, the Duchess of Cornwall, tested negative for the virus. 

Read the full story here.  

Iran records more than 2,000 new coronavirus cases

Iran’s health ministry reported 2,026 new cases of the coronavirus on Wednesday, bringing the total number of cases in the country to more than 27,000. 

The total number of deaths has also gone up by 143 in the last 24 hours to 2,077, the ministry added. 

Iran has been one of the global hotspots of the coronavirus pandemic, where the virus has sickened and killed several members of the country's political elite.

Richard Engel daily report: A third of the world is now under lockdown

The Great Wall of China partially reopens: state media

The Great Wall of China partially reopened Tuesday after being closed for nearly two months due to the coronavirus outbreak, state media reported. 

China's television network CCTV said the famous Badaling section will be open between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. local time, with a daily cap on visitors. Other sections of the wall remain closed, and security guards will remind visitors to distance from each other.

Visitors will also have their temperatures taken upon entry, CCTV said. 

Meanwhile, mainland China registered 47 new confirmed cases on Tuesday, all imported— down from 78 a day earlier, the National Health Commission said.

U.S. could be next 'virus epicenter': WHO

The United States could become the global epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic with cases there growing quickly, the World Health Organization (WHO) has said. 

“We are now seeing a very large acceleration in cases in the U.S. So it does have that potential,” WHO spokeswoman Margaret Harris told reporters in Geneva on Tuesday.

The U.S. has so far recorded 54,810 coronavirus cases, including 781 deaths. 

Britain seeking 250,000 volunteers to help coronavirus response

Britain is “rallying the troops” for the war on coronavirus and seeking 250,000 volunteers to help out in its response to the epidemic as the number of deaths reached 422 Tuesday. 

Health secretary Matt Hancock said the National Health Service is looking for people in good health to help with shopping and medicine delivery for approximately 1.5 million who are “shielding” and are recommended to stay at home for 12 weeks due to serious underlying health conditions.

The volunteers will also be asked to help drive patients to and from hospital appointments, and to call people isolating at home to check up on them.

The U.K. went into full lockdown for at least three weeks Monday, announcing tougher restrictions.

9,000 Americans returned home amid coronavirus pandemic

Image: U.S. citizens and residents board a bus before getting on a plane back to the United States after Peru imposed a travel ban to stop the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Lima
U.S. citizens and residents board a bus before getting on a plane back to the United States on Monday after Peru imposed a travel ban to stop the spread of coronavirus. Sebastian Castaneda / Reuters

More than 9,000 Americans from 28 countries have returned to the United States as more countries impose travel bans and close their borders amid the growing coronavirus pandemic, the U.S. State Department said Tuesday.

The U.S. is "rising to meet the historic challenge posed by the COVID-19 pandemic," working to bring home citizens from every corner of the globe, a department spokesperson said in a statement, adding that thousands more Americans will be brought home in the coming days. 

The department has never undertaken an evacuation operation of such geographic breadth, scale, and complexity, the statement said. 

Evacuations have included more than 800 people from Wuhan in China, where the outbreak is believed to have originated, earlier this year and about 1,000 Americans from Morocco earlier this month. 

Coronavirus cases climb in South Africa

Image: A customer pushes two shopping carts filled with food while shopping at Makro in Pretoria East, South Africa
A customer pushes two shopping carts filled with food while shopping in Pretoria East, South Africa on Tuesday. Phill Makagoe / AFP - Getty Images

The number of coronavirus cases in South Africa has jumped to 709 from 554, the country's health minister Zweli Mkhize told a local news channel on Wednesday.

South Africa now has the highest number of confirmed coronavirus cases in sub-Saharan Africa, and public health experts are worried that the virus could overwhelm the healthcare system.

President Cyril Ramaphosa has announced a 21-day lockdown that will begin Thursday.

Ramaphosa also introduced some of the toughest measures on the continent, including deploying the army in the streets, closing mining operations and confining recently arrived tourists. 

Weddings delayed due to coronavirus

Companies seek epidemic insurance as coronavirus affects events

The 2020 Tokyo Olympics were postponed Tuesday, making the games the biggest global event to be affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

As the disease continues to spread, many companies and organizations have had to cancel or postpone major events around the world. That has led to increased interest in epidemic insurance.

"We definitely do see rising demand in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak," said Axel Rakette, a spokesperson for insurer Munich Re. "But it's not a common product — yet."

Events typically are protected by insurance policies in the event of cancellations. But most standard policies don't cover cancellations caused by communicable diseases and outbreaks. Insurers offer restricted coverage for epidemics or pandemics as a buy-back, which means a higher premium, so most companies don't opt to purchase it.

Read the full story here.

How countries around the world are working to flatten the curve

Senate agrees to $2 trillion coronavirus relief bill

WASHINGTON — The White House and Senate leaders reached an agreement early Wednesday on a massive $2 trillion coronavirus spending bill aimed at alleviating the economic impact of the outbreak.

“At last, we have a deal," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced shortly before 2 a.m. Wednesday. "In effect, this is a war-time investment."

Although the full text of the bill is not yet known, lawmakers indicated on Tuesday that the Republican’s initial proposal for direct cash payments would be included.

Read the full story here. 

Brazil president says coronavirus is overblown

RIO DE JANEIRO — President Jair Bolsonaro is sticking with his contention that concern about the new coronavirus is overblown and has accused Brazilian media of trying to stoke nationwide hysteria.

Bolsonaro said in a nationally televised address that the media had seized on the death toll in Italy, which he said is suffering so severely because of its elderly population and colder climate.

“The virus arrived, we are confronting it, and it will pass shortly," he said. "Our lives have to continue, jobs should be maintained.”

Bolsonaro added that certain Brazilian states should abandon their “scorched earth” policy of prohibiting public transport, closing business and schools, and calling for mass confinement at home for their residents.

About 2,200 people in Brazil have been infected so far, with 46 dead.

Trump approves disaster declarations for Louisiana, Iowa

President Donald Trump on Tuesday approved disaster declarations for the states of Iowa and Louisiana, the White House said.

The approvals follow declarations for New York, California and Washington state. Emergency declarations allow federal aid. Those three states have some of the highest number of cases in the country.

Iowa has 124 cases and reported its first death associated with COVID-19 on Tuesday. Louisiana has more than 1,300 cases and 46 deaths, according to its state health department.

Video diaries around the world: What it's like living in quarantine

Key medical glove factories cutting staff 50 percent

Malaysia’s medical glove factories, which make most of the world’s critical hand protection, are operating at half capacity just when they’re most needed, The Associated Press has learned.

Health care workers snap gloves on as the first line of protection against catching COVID-19 from patients, and they’re crucial to protecting patients as well. But medical-grade glove supplies are running low globally, even as more feverish, sweating and coughing patients arrive in hospitals by the day.

Malaysia is by far the world’s largest medical glove supplier, producing as many as three out of four gloves on market. 

The Malaysian government ordered factories to halt all manufacturing starting March 18. Then, one by one, those that make products deemed essential, including medical gloves, have been required to seek exemptions to reopen, but only with half of their workforce to reduce the risk of transmitting the new virus, according to industry reports and insider sources. The government says companies must meet domestic demand before exporting anything. The Malaysian Rubber Glove Manufacturers Association this week is asking for an exception.