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Global cases top 2 million, U.S. stimulus money starts arriving

Here are the latest coronavirus updates from around the world.
Image: A staff member cleans the floor after the last patients were discharged from Leishenshan Hospital, originally built to treat people infected with COVID-19, in Wuhan on Tuesday.
A staff member cleans the floor after the last patients were discharged from Leishenshan Hospital, originally built to treat people infected with COVID-19, in Wuhan on Tuesday.AFP - Getty Images

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases around the world topped 2 million Wednesday, according to Johns Hopkins, with more than 128,000 confirmed deaths.

The IRS released an online form Wednesday that allows Americans to upload their bank account information in order to receive their stimulus money faster and a portal where they can check the status of their payment.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced an executive order mandating that everyone in the state must wear a mask or face-covering in public when social distancing is not possible.

Meanwhile, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer faced intense opposition as thousands gathered at the state Capitol to demonstrate against her restrictive stay-at-home order. Organizers encouraged people to attend "Operation Gridlock" by using their cars to clog the streets but many ignored pleas to stay in their vehicles and broke social distancing.

Here's what to know about the coronavirus, plus a timeline of the most critical moments:

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This live coverage has ended. Continue reading April 16 coronavirus news here.

Trump threatens to adjourn Congress to make recess appointments

President Donald Trump threatened to adjourn both chambers of Congress on Wednesday, lashing out at lawmakers for holding up nominees to federal judgeships and key administration roles amid the pandemic.  

"The current practice of leaving town while conducting phony Pro Forma sessions is a dereliction of duty," Trump said. 

Trump said that hundreds of nominations have been stalled in the Senate, which is not slated to meet until April 20 and has been holding pro form sessions, which are generally brief meetings in the chamber.

The House is not expected to meet until May 4. Both chambers have managed to hold sessions and pass legislation related to the pandemic.

Cinemark plans to reopen its movie theaters by July

Cinemark is developing a plan to reopen movie theaters as of July, the company said Wednesday. The company shut down theaters across the country on March 17 due to the coronavirus outbreak. 

The Plano, Texas-based firm, which owns 345 theaters in the U.S., told investors it was readying a rolling plan to get theaters open in time for the July 17 release of the Warner Bros. action thriller “Tenet,” followed by Disney’s delayed release “Mulan,” now scheduled for July 24. 

Theaters would either operate at 50 percent occupancy, or sell every other seat, in order to maintain any social distancing regulations that were still in place, CEO Mark Zoradi said on a call with investors Wednesday.

The return to business would also be staggered across multiple months and involve reduced operating hours, a spokeswoman told NBC News.

California says that gig workers can get unemployment benefits due to COVID-19 losses

California’s top labor official said in a letter released Tuesday that anyone in the state who has lost income and is an independent contractor can seek financial benefits from the state. This specifically includes gig workers who deliver for companies like Amazon, or drive for Uber or Lyft, among many others. 

Gig workers have existed in something of a legal limbo that left them without benefits including unemployment. Labor activists have argued that the bulk of these workers should have been misclassified as contractors rather than employees, entitling them to unemployment benefits.

Beginning in two weeks, affected workers can submit their Pandemic Unemployment Assistance application, which is funded by newly released money as allocated under the new federal CARES Act, the landmark bill recently passed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Under the new unemployment system, affected individuals will now be able to be paid an additional $600 within 24 to 48 hours, Labor Commissioner Julie Su wrote.

Separately, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors passed a new ordinance requiring companies to provide protective equipment for grocery, drug store, and gig economy food delivery workers in unincorporated parts of the sprawling county, covering approximately 1 million people.

Trump to announce new guidelines on Thursday for states to reopen amid coronavirus

President Donald Trump said Wednesday he will hold a news conference at the White House on Thursday afternoon to finalize new guidelines for "various states" to reopen amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Trump touted progress in cities such as Baltimore, St. Louis and New Orleans and claimed that the data suggests much of the country has "passed the peak" on new cases. 

The president has been eager to reopen the country and kick-start the economy, much to the chagrin of governors and public health officials who have pressed for more medical supplies, widespread testing and economic relief before lifting stay-at-home orders.

Photo: Protesters rage over Ohio lockdown

Joshua A. Bickel / Columbus Dispatch via USA TODAY NETWORK

Protesters shout outside the Statehouse Atrium where reporters listen to Gov. Mike DeWine's update on the state's response to the coronavirus pandemic at the Ohio Statehouse in Columbus on Monday, April 13, 2020. About 100 people assembled outside the building to protest the state's continued stay at home order and non-essential business closures.

Her father's delirium was a first sign of coronavirus. He's not the only one.

Frank Carter celebrated his 82nd birthday with his wife and daughters this past February. His daughter, Nicole, top right, noticed signs of cognitive problems in Carter about a week before he died from COVID-19.Courtesy of Nicole Hutcherson

Nicole Hutcherson first noticed something was wrong with her father — normally a spry early-riser who enjoyed yard work and home renovation projects — earlier this month, when he wasn't getting out of bed until nearly midday.

Her dad, Frank M. Carter, 82, of Goodlettsville, Tennessee, insisted he felt fine, despite some nausea and vomiting. Hutcherson suspected he was dehydrated, so she went to his house to give him intravenous fluids. Hutcherson is a nurse, and had supplies on hand.

Read the full story here.

Private labs say demand for coronavirus tests is down and they can test more people who aren't as sick

Cars line up outside the Central Outreach Wellness Center, in partnership with Quest Diagnostics, on the Northside of Pittsburgh, on March 16, 2020.Gene J. Puskar / AP file

The demand for coronavirus tests at the nation's private labs, which handle the vast majority of testing for the disease, has dropped so much since its peak that the labs now have "considerable" unused capacity and can test more lower priority patients, according to the American Clinical Laboratory Association.

The number of COVID-19 tests conducted daily by private labs peaked on Sunday, April 5, at 108,000. It dropped under 100,000 per day after that.

From Sunday, April 12, to Monday, April 13, the number of daily tests fell from 75,000 to 43,000.

Read the full story here. 

Wall Street has a rough day as brutal economic data begins to pile up

The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed the day down by just under 450 points Wednesday, after weak manufacturing reports added to the list of grim economic data, including a record decline in monthly retail sales and ugly quarterly earnings from some of the country’s largest banks.

President Donald Trump continues to move ahead with plans to reopen the economy, announcing at a coronavirus task force briefing on Tuesday he would be speaking to "all 50 governors very shortly" in order to discuss "a very powerful reopening plan of their state at a time and in a manner as most appropriate."

Read the full story here. 

88-year-old man lifted in bucket truck during coronavirus lockdown to visit wife in nursing home

Coronavirus isolation couldn’t keep 88-year-old Nicholas Avtges Sr. from visiting his wife. The couple have been separated for weeks while Marion Avtges, 85, is under lockdown in a nursing home in Waltham, Massachusetts. Her family came up with an idea using a bucket truck to reunite the couple, who have been married for 61 years.

'Lock her up!': Anti-Whitmer coronavirus lockdown protestors swarm Michigan Capitol

Protesters outside the Michigan State Capitol in Lansing, Mich. on April 15, 2020.Elaine Cromie / Getty Images

Demonstrators descended on the state Capitol in Lansing on Wednesday to protest Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's restrictive stay-at-home order, clogging the streets with their cars while scores ignored organizers' pleas to stay inside their vehicles.

The protest — dubbed "Operation Gridlock" — was organized by the Michigan Conservative Coalition and the Michigan Freedom Fund, a DeVos family-linked conservative group. Protesters were encouraged to show up and cause traffic jams, honk and bring signs to display from their cars. Organizers wrote on Facebook: "Do not park and walk — stay in your vehicles!"

Read the full story here. 

Rihanna, Jay-Z and Twitter CEO offer more than $6M in relief grants

Rihanna, Jay-Z, and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey announced they were co-funding more than $6 million in coronavirus relief grants to marginalized communities in areas that have been hit hard by the pandemic. 

The three entrepreneurs have co-funded $6.2 million for organizations aiding vulnerable populations, with a particular focus on New York, New Orleans and Puerto Rico, according to a news release Wednesday. 

Some of the organizations that have been chosen to receive the grants including the Mayor's Fund to Advance New York City, Covenant House New Orleans, the Hispanic Federation in Puerto Rico, and Doctors Without Borders. 

Jay-Z and Rihanna previously funded $2 million in grants through their foundations at the end of March for organizations that support undocumented immigrants, homeless populations and children of frontline workers.