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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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England's death toll up to 99, up to 104 in all of the U.K.

Another 32 coronavirus deaths have been reported in England, bringing that nation's death toll from the pandemic to 99, officials said Wednesday.

"Patients were aged between 59 and 94 years old and had underlying health conditions," according to a statement from the National Health Service. "Their families have been informed."

The death toll in all the United Kingdom was at 104, officials said. 

WHO's 'solidarity trial' will examine coronavirus drugs

The World Health Organization has announced an international trial to gather data about which treatments are most effective for the coronavirus.

The "solidarity trial," as it's being called, will compare the effects of several drugs, including an experimental Ebola drug called remdesivir and an anti-malaria drug called chloroquine.

Countries that will participate include Argentina, Canada, France, Norway, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland and Thailand. The United States is not one of the participant countries at this time.

The scene in Brussels

People stand apart while waiting to enter a supermarket in Brussels on Wednesday. Francisco Seco / AP

H&M to close all U.S stores

H&M followed other major retailers Wednesday in announcing that it would close all of its U.S. retail locations. The Swedish clothing company said its nearly 600 stores in the U.S. would not reopen until April 2, or until further notice. 

H&M employees would be paid for two weeks, the retailer said in a statement. The company added that online order shipping and return shipping was free due to the store closures. 

H&M has also recently closed stores in Canada, Germany, Portugal, Belgium, Italy, Poland, Spain, the Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Belgium, France, Austria, Luxembourg, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Slovenia and Kazakhstan, and some in Greece, according to Reuters.

Detroit's three biggest automakers will temporarily shut down plants

Detroit's top three automakers agreed to partially shut down factories due to the coronavirus pandemic, the United Auto Workers union said in a statement on Wednesday.

General Motors, Ford and Fiat Chrysler came to the agreement Tuesday night after union officials spoke individually with the companies. The automakers also agreed to deep cleaning of equipment and “extensive plans” to keep union members from close contact with one another.

The production cuts are intended to not only address fears of spreading the disease, but also plunging car sales. Demand in China fell 79 percent last month, and early reports indicate sharp declines in the U.S. and Europe this month.

Trading halted on Wall Street for fourth time in two weeks

Trading was halted on Wall Street on Wednesday afternoon, after the S&P 500 fell by 7 percent, triggering a market-wide circuit breaker, the fourth in two weeks.

All three major indices have suffered a grim week, with stocks spiraling downward despite a series of sweeping measures intended to address the growing economic damage from the coronavirus pandemic.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average was down by 1,600 points after trading was paused, settling at 19,576. The blue-chip index has now lost all of its gains since President Donald Trump took office on January 20, 2017.  

Americans would get two checks under Treasury Department proposal

The Treasury Department will be asking Congress for $500 billion in direct payouts for taxpayers as part of a $1 trillion stimulus package to combat the economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic, according to a proposal obtained by NBC News.

The two rounds of direct payments to taxpayers, each a total of $250 billion, would be sent on April 6 and then the second round would be sent on May 18, according to the proposal. They would be tiered payments, with the amounts based on income level and family size, the proposal says. Both payments would be for the same amount.

President Donald Trump was asked about the proposal at a coronavirus briefing at the White House on Wednesday, and said, "I don't want to get in that right now" because there are "different numbers" being discussed. But, he added, "we want to go big."

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Is it okay to take ibuprofen for coronavirus?

While worries that taking ibuprofen might worsen the coronavirus have gone viral online, health experts say there is currently no credible scientific evidence to substantiate the concern.

The World Health Organization told NBC News it's "gathering evidence" on the topic, but "after a rapid review of the literature, is not aware of published clinical or population-based data on this topic."

Read more. 

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.