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World markets tumble and all of Italy goes on lockdown

Here's the latest on the coronavirus outbreak.
Image: South Korean soldiers spray disinfectants inside an apartment complex which is under cohort isolation after mass infection of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Daegu
South Korean soldiers spray disinfectants inside an apartment complex that is under isolation in Daegu on Monday. Kim Kyung-Hoon / Reuters

World stocks tumbled with investors bracing for the economic fallout of the epidemic, with a shocking all-out oil price war adding to anxiety.

Wall Street suffered its worst day since the financial crisis of 2008 as the Dow plummeted more than 2,000 points by Monday's closing bell, and London's FTSE 100 plunged to a three-year low after oil prices cratered by 30 percent overnight.

Meanwhile, Italian Prime Minister Guiseppe Conte announced Monday that the containment measures introduced Sunday for the Lombardy region in the country's north would be applied to the whole nation. More than 9,000 people have been confirmed to have the virus in Italy so far while Germany and Spain also saw spikes in the number of cases Monday.

The number of confirmed U.S. cases of coronavirus has risen to more than 650 on Monday, including 26 deaths.

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Trump compares coronavirus to flu

President Donald Trump on Monday morning continued to downplay concern around the outbreak of the new coronavirus in the U.S.

In a tweet, Trump compared coronavirus outbreak numbers to annual flu deaths. Health experts have warned such comparisons can be problematic because the flu is reasonably predictable while much is still unknown about the new coronavirus and COVID-19, the disease it causes.

Scientists are still working to get a more complete picture of the virus including its mortality rate.

Just before Trump's tweet, health secretary Alex Azar appeared on Fox News and said "nobody is trying to minimize" the threat of the new coronavirus.

Public interest in coronavirus spikes, according to Google Trends

Public interest in coronavirus is reaching levels that dwarf other major events of the past decade, according to data from Google Trends.

Google is able to see what people on its search engine are looking for, making it a useful indication of public interest. And according to its data, coronavirus searches have spiked considerably — and could make even the amount of searches for major figures such as Barack Obama and Donald Trump look small in comparison. 

"I've said this before, but the amount of interest in the coronavirus is just unreal," Washington Post data reporter Christopher Ingraham said on Twitter. "I've never seen anything like it. Shaping up to be the biggest story in Google trends history."

Six die in Italian prison riot over anti-coronavirus measures

Inmates stage a protest against new rules to cope with coronavirus on the roof of the San Vittore prison in Milan, Italy, on Monday. Antonio Calanni / AP

Six inmates were killed in a prison riot in Italy and guards were taken hostage at another jail, as unrest spread in prisons across the country over measures to contain the coronavirus, including restrictions on visits.

Italy’s government has imposed a lockdown across much of the northern regions that have been hit by the contagion, in an effort to contain a virus which as of Sunday had killed 366 people in Italy.

In a TV interview, the head of Italy’s prison administration, Francesco Basentini, said three inmates had died inside a jail in the northern town of Modena, and three others had died after being transferred away from the prison.

'Operations are our lifeblood': Delta tries to allay customer fears

In an email, Delta Air Lines attempted to reassure anxious travelers and outline how it planned to respond to the outbreak.

Delta said it has "doubled-down" on cleaning, adding a fogging process to disinfect many of its longer-haul aircraft. The company said it would more consistently clean check-in kiosks, too.

The carrier is making sure customers have easy access to hand sanitizer, and it is outfitting employees with supplies. Masks will be available for sick customers (and staff in close contact with them), and the company says its Atlanta command center is prepared to answer customer questions and concerns.

"For more than a decade, Delta has been preparing for such a scenario," the company said in the email. "Operations are our lifeblood."

Princeton University doing online-only classes after spring break

Trump campaign 'proceeding normally,' but no rallies scheduled

There are few things President Trump says he enjoys more than a large-scale rally with thousands of cheering supporters. And while he has pledged to keep up the pace amid concerns about large gathering as the coronavirus outbreak intensifies, his re-election campaign has not announced any upcoming rallies for the weeks ahead, marking the first time without one on the calendar this year.

Read more here.

Trading halted on stock market as crude oil price plunge pulls down major averages

Trading on Wall Street's major averages was halted for 15 minutes Monday morning after the S&P 500 plunged by 7 percent, triggering a "circuit breaker."

The Dow Jones Industrial Average plummeted at the opening bell, sinking by more than 1,800 points as a fight over crude oil production created heightened pressure on a global economy already suffering the effects of the coronavirus epidemic.

Traders had anticipated a bloodbath on Monday, after oil prices cratered overnight by 30 percent when ongoing talks between OPEC members did not produce an agreement on output cuts.

Amazon changes warehouse worker policy for March

Amazon has told its warehouse employees that they can take sick days in March without counting toward their unpaid time off, according to CNBC.

The change comes as labor experts have warned that hourly workers and those without sick leave could be at higher risk of both catching the coronavirus and suffering severe financial repercussions as a result.

"We continue to work closely with public and private medical experts to ensure we are taking the right precautions and have implemented a series of preventative health measures for employees, delivery and transportation partners at our sites around the world," an Amazon spokesperson said in a statement.