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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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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

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

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

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

A Venice canal runs clearer than usual after motorboat traffic stopped during Italy's coronavirus lockdown. Andrea Pattaro / AFP - Getty Images