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Coronavirus updates: 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

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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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Las Vegas airport tower closed after controller tests positive

The air traffic control tower at Las Vegas' McCarran International Airport has been temporarily closed after a controller tested presumptively positive for the coronavirus, a Federal Aviation Administration spokesman said.

The Las Vegas Terminal Radar Approach Control assumed control of the airspace and the airport remains open, but operations will continue at a reduced rate until the situation is resolved. 

The air traffic controller tested presumptively positive for the virus, which causes the illness COVID-19, on Wednesday. Presumptively positive is a term often used when a local test comes back positive but before that result is confirmed by the CDC.

The presumptive positive at McCarran comes a day after the air traffic control tower at Chicago’s Midway International Airport was closed after several technicians tested positive. That airport remained open but at reduced operations.

Critical care nurse: Lack of supplies causing 'fear and insecurity'

Playboy, citing coronavirus, says next issue last for print this year

Playboy magazine says that due to supply challenges because of the coronavirus pandemic, its spring issue will be the last to hit newsstands this year.

"Last week, as the disruption of the coronavirus pandemic to content production and the supply chain became clearer and clearer, we were forced to accelerate a conversation we've been having internally: the question of how to transform our U.S. print product to better suit what consumers want today,” Playboy Enterprises CEO Ben Kohn said in an open letter posted online Wednesday.

The Spring 2020 Issue, which is set to hit newsstands this week, will be its last printed publication for the year in the United States, Kohn wrote.

Kohn said the company will move to a “digital-first publishing schedule" for all of its content. It will publish print materials next year but those were described as new forms like "special editions, partnerships with the most provocative creators, timely collections and much more."

Movie theaters request stimulus from Congress

Faced with a lengthy shutdown due the coronavirus pandemic, movie theaters are requesting relief from the U.S. government.

The National Association of Theater Owners, the trade group that represents most of the industry’s cinemas, said Wednesday that it’s asking for immediate federal help for its chains and its 150,000 employees. The theaters are requesting loan guarantees for exhibitors, tax benefits for employees and funds to compensate for lost ticket sales and concessions.

The organization said the movie theater industry is “uniquely vulnerable” to the crisis, and needs assistance to weather a near total shutdown of two to three months.

John Fithian, president and chief executive of NATO, didn’t give a specific dollar amount for what the industry is seeking but said theaters could be saved for a fraction of what the airline industry is requesting (The White House has proposed $50 billion for the airlines). 

Engaged couple spreads cheer by sharing roses from postponed wedding

When Laura Waina and Michael Zoldan decided to postpone their Arizona wedding because of coronavirus fears, they had to figure out what to do with more than 2,000 roses they’d ordered.  So they picked up what they could fit in their car and set out to donate dozens and dozens of them.

Laura Waina and Michael ZoldanCourtesy Laura Waina

With the help of their local news station, the Scottsdale couple learned of at least 150 people who wished to use the flowers, Waina told NBC News.

“Just hearing the stories from the people that reached out to us, we feel super blessed and know that it could’ve been so much worse,” she said.

The flowers went to three people: a woman whose 42-year-old sister unexpectedly passed away and whose favorite flowers happened to be white roses; a man whose mother had passed away in isolation; and another couple had previously postponed their wedding but went ahead with a two-person ceremony this week.  

“We felt bad for ourselves the most at first, but after we licked our wounds for two to three days, we realized it could be worse,” Zoldan told NBC News. “It was cathartic to help others that were struggling in very material ways.”

China reports no new domestic cases for first time since start of epidemic

For the first time since the outbreak began, China’s National Health Commission on Thursday morning reported no new domestic cases of the coronavirus illness COVID-19.

The numbers from Wednesday on mainland China include 34 new confirmed cases, but the health commission lists those as “newly diagnosed imported cases.” Those were mainly in Beijing, but also in Guangdong, Shanghai, Heilongjiang and Zhejiang.

Deaths continued to rise in mainland China, but at a low rate. Only eight deaths were reported, all of which occurred in Hubei province, which is includes the city of Wuhan and where the outbreak began.

There have been 3,245 deaths linked to the coronavirus illness in mainland China as of Thursday morning, according to the national health commission. 

President Trump signs coronavirus aid bill into law

President Donald Trump has signed a coronavirus aid bill that was approved by the House this week and the Senate on Wednesday, the White House said.

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act provides free coronavirus testing and ensures paid emergency leave for those who are infected or caring for a family member with the illness.  It also provides additional Medicaid funding, food assistance and unemployment benefits.

The Senate’s action on Wednesday paves the way for lawmakers to turn their attention to a proposal that could include direct payments to Americans.

Read the full story here.

Rep. Ben McAdams is second member of Congress to test positive for coronavirus

Rep. Ben McAdams, D-Utah, announced Wednesday night he has tested positive for coronavirus, little more than an hour after Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart became the first member of Congress to test positive.

"On Saturday evening, after returning from Washington, D.C., I developed mild cold-like symptoms," McAdams said in a statement. "My symptoms got worse and I developed a fever, a dry cough and labored breathing and I remain self quarantined."

He said he has self-quarantined and conducted all meetings by phone since Saturday.

"On Tuesday, my doctor instructed me to get tested for COVID-19 and following his referral, I went to the local testing clinic," McAdams said. "Today I learned that I tested positive."

McAdams says he's still working from quarantine and urges his constituents "to take this seriously and follow the health recommendations we're getting from the CDC."

Italy reports deadliest day of coronavirus outbreak

New York City cases double in a day, now over 1,800

More than 1,800 people in New York have tested positive for coronavirus, City Hall announced on Wednesday night, more than double what had been reported just 24 hours earlier. 

There are 1,871 confirmed cases in the five boroughs of America's largest city, according to the New York City Health Department.

Just one day earlier the count had been 923 cases and 10 dead.