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

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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 unprecedented move of adjourning Congress to fill vacancies

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump threatened Wednesday to adjourn Congress so he can unilaterally install nominees to federal positions that he said are pertinent to the coronavirus crisis, an admittedly unprecedented move that critics likened to a dictatorship.

Trump said the Senate should either approve his nominees or adjourn so he can “recess appoint” them. Congress holds pro forma sessions when it isn’t working, a process Republicans made common under President Barack Obama to prevent him from temporarily filling vacancies without Senate approval.

“If the House will not agree to that adjournment, I will exercise my constitutional authority to adjourn both chambers of Congress. The current practice of leaving town while conducting phony pro forma sessions is a dereliction of duty that the American people cannot afford during this crisis,” Trump said at a White House briefing. “It is a scam what they do.”

Read the full story here

Pennsylvania governor to veto bill that would immediately reopen more businesses

As the White House pushes for a plan to reopen the country’s economy, the Republican-controlled Pennsylvania statehouse passed legislation that would allow some businesses to re-open immediately, despite a statewide stay-at-home order put in place to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

It goes to Democratic Governor Tom Wolf’s desk next, who plans to veto the bill. His office tells NBC News that “reopening businesses too early will only extend the length of the economic hardships created by the pandemic.”

Pennsylvania Secretary of Health, Dr. Rachel Levine notes in a letter to the general assembly that the peak of coronavirus has not yet been reached in Pennsylvania, which as of Wednesday night has more than 26,000 cases and 774 deaths.

“The decision to shutter non-life sustaining businesses that support families across this commonwealth was a painful one,” Levine wrote, “but before we can save livelihoods, we need to save lives.”

Governor Wolf joined an alliance this week with governors across the northeast to work toward a regional approach to an economic reopening.

NY Bar Association creates task force to assist with pro bono legal work

After New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo called upon lawyers in the state to volunteer to assist with COVID-19- related cases pro bono, the New York State Bar Association created a task force to handle the demand. 

The initial request sought lawyers to help residents apply for unemployment benefits, however, according to the Bar Association,  “the network is quickly gearing up to handle a range of other issues from evictions to domestic violence to job and housing discrimination.”

The New York State Bar Association is working with the state court system to establish a “COVID-19 Recovery Task Force” made up of lawyers, law school deans and legal clerks to assist with the caseload.

The task force will be responsible for “setting priorities, recruiting lawyers, coordinating resources and connecting lawyers and clients."

Americans lose phone, internet service despite FCC pledge not to disconnect during pandemic

Pedestrians walk past a Verizon Wireless store in San Francisco.Justin Sullivan / Getty Images file

Some people who just lost their jobs because of the coronavirus pandemic are finding that they have lost something else — phone and internet access.

Across the country, suddenly unemployed residents are getting threatening notices, despite an initiative from the Federal Communications Commission that pledged last month to "Keep Americans Connected."

"It was a surprise when my line was suddenly disconnected, because I had actually got an email saying that during this time there would be no interruptions to phone service," Aaron Joshua Perra, a hairstylist from Minneapolis, told NBC News. He had his Sprint phone shut off soon after his salon closed down last month. Sprint has since reconnected him.

Read the full story here. 

South Dakota Gov. Noem, who opposed stay-home order, now faces coronavirus hot spot

North Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem speaks with reporters in Pierre, S.D. on March, 5, 2020.Stephen Groves / AP file

Despite an outbreak in South Dakota's biggest city and criticism that there's no statewide shelter in place order, Gov. Kristi Noem said Wednesday the state is doing better than expected and "bending the curve."

"We have cut our peak, and that's a good thing and that is encouraging to all of us," Noem said at a news briefing. "Our health care system can handle what's coming at us."

The Republican governor made her remarks as the number of people who've tested positive for coronavirus in the state rose to 1,168, due in large part to a cluster of cases stemming from a meat processing plant in Sioux Falls. There have been six deaths in the state.

Read the full story here. 

Harry and Meghan donate more than $100k from royal wedding to charity

Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex and Meghan, The Duchess of Sussex, ride in the Ascot Landau carriage during the procession after getting married St George's Chapel, Windsor Castle on May 19, 2018 in Windsor, England.Matt Cardy / Getty Images file

Prince Harry and Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, announced Wednesday they are donating profits made from the broadcast of their royal wedding to a charity working to feed families during the coronavirus pandemic.

The couple is giving $112,000 to Feeding Britain, an organization working to alleviate hunger, after discussing the group's work with the Archbishop of Canterbury.

"The Duke and Duchess were able to speak to The Archbishop recently, and were moved to hear all about the work Feeding Britain was doing to support people during Covid-19," the couple's spokesman said in a statement Wednesday.

Read the full article here.

Los Angeles County has another record day of deaths

At least 42 more Los Angeles County residents have died from coronavirus, health officials said Wednesday, in a second consecutive day of biggest one-day spikes.

The death toll from the pandemic had reached 403 by midday, according to the L.A. County Department of Public Health

The department had reported 40 new, confirmed fatalities on Tuesday, which was then the city's highest number of daily deaths in the pandemic. 

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.