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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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Trump to invoke Defense Production Act, suspend evictions through April

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

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

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

Read more on the announcement here.

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

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

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

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

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

Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival postponed until September

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read the full story here. 

Coronavirus lockdowns offer some hope for climate scientists

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

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

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

Read the full story here.

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

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

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

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

IKEA will temporarily close all U.S. stores

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chicago's voting struggles illustrate the challenges of coronavirus

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

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

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

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

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