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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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All of Italy on lockdown as prime minister expands restrictions to entire country

Italy's prime minister announced Monday that the lockdown placed on millions in the Lombardy region has been extended to the entire country in an effort to curb the spread of coronavirus. 

The country's residents should avoid traveling outside areas where they live unless they can prove it’s because of a medical or work emergency, according to the sweeping new restrictions imposed by Italian Prime Minster Guiseppe Conte.

The extended lockdown, which also requires businesses to close by dusk, will take effect Tuesday and be in effect until April 3, Conte said.

“There won’t be just a red zone,″ Conte told reporters, referring to the designated lockdown areas in Lombardy. "There will be Italy." 

The nationwide decree also extends school closures in Italy. Schools in the center and south of Italy that were closed because of the virus had been slated to reopen on March 16.

As of Monday, at least 463 Italians have died from coronavirus-related deaths of the more than 9,000 confirmed positive cases.

3 more coronavirus deaths at Washington long-term care facility

Three more coronavirus-related deaths have been reported from a long-term care facility in Kirkland, Washington, where several residents and those affiliated with the establishment have fallen ill.

At least two of the three Life Care Center residents who died were part of 33 newly confirmed positives reported by Seattle and King County Public Health Monday. The third, a woman in her 70s, was part of a group of people who tested positive Wednesday. 

Of the 20 coronavirus-related deaths in King County, 19 have come from the Life Care Center. The nursing home has been considered a miniature epicenter for spread of COVID-19, the illness associated with coronavirus.

King County has 116 confirmed coronavirus cases as of Monday afternoon. 

CVS to waive fees for prescription delivery

CVS Health has temporarily stopped charging patients to have prescriptions delivered directly to their homes.

The move comes as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has strongly discouraged those at high risk for complications of the coronavirus — such as people over age 80 and those with underlying health conditions — from going out into the public unnecessarily.

The CDC has suggested those at highest risk of becoming ill secure a two-week supply of needed medications, as well as basic groceries and household items. 

Ireland cancels St. Patrick's Day festivities over coronavirus concerns

Crowds watch the St. Patrick's Day Parade in Dublin, Ireland, on March 17, 2019.Paul Faith / AFP via Getty Images file

St. Patrick's Day festivities in the Republic of Ireland have been canceled amid concerns about the spread of coronavirus.

The cancellations, including the National St. Patrick's Festival parade in Dublin, have come at the advice of health officials to help slow the spread of the virus, Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said Monday. There have been a total of 19 cases of COVID-19, the disease associated with coronavirus, in the Republic of Ireland.

"But I think it's really important to get across a very important fact; the vast majority of people who get COVID-19 in the next couple of weeks or couple of months will not do so because they attend a mass gathering, they will most likely pick it up in their own home from their family, or from interactions with friends and others," Varadkar said.

Read the full story here.

How does the coronavirus compare to flu?

The new coronavirus spreads in a similar way to the flu — through respiratory droplets — and can cause similar symptoms and complications. 

But while the flu is well understood and predictable, there are many unknowns about the virus that causes COVID-19. This coronavirus has only been known to scientists since the end of December. It's unclear, for example, whether it will follow a seasonal pattern like the flu.

Because the coronavirus is new, there is no immunity against it. Unlike the flu, there is no proven treatment or vaccine. 

The mortality rate for the flu is around 0.1 percent. Young children and the elderly, as well as people with compromised immune systems, are most at risk for serious complications. The mortality rate for the new coronavirus likely won't be known for years. The World Health Organization said that around 3 percent of people who have gotten sick from the virus have died, but this number is likely to change. Risk for severe complications from the coronavirus increases with age.

GOP House member who was with Trump on Air Force One also self-quarantining

Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., is also now self-quarantining and closing his Washington, D.C., office after learning Monday that he was exposed to a patient with coronavirus at the Conservative Political Action Conference late last month.

Gaetz, who wore a gas mask on the House floor during the vote on the coronavirus emergency spending bill last week, was on Air Force One with President Donald Trump on Monday. 

The list of members known to be self-quarantining include Gaetz, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, Republican Reps. Paul Gosar of Arizona and Doug Collins of Georgia, and Democratic Rep. Julia Brownley of California.

Dow closes with decline of 2,000 points, almost ending 11-year bull market

Wall Street took a beating on Monday, as collapsing oil prices and fears about the impact of the coronavirus almost nudged the American economy out of the longest bull market in history, exactly 11 years to the day since it began.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed the day with a loss of around 2,000 points Monday, part of a global market rout that saw spiraling sell-offs in the energy sector amid the biggest drop for crude oil since the Gulf War in 1991.

The blue-chip Dow saw its biggest points drop ever, down 7.8 percent, with the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq down by 7.6 percent and 7.2 percent for one of the worst days since the financial crisis.

Pelosi to hold meeting with House chairs over coronavirus

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Monday that she plans to hold a meeting with House committee chairs to discuss the coronavirus outbreak after their regular weekly Democratic leadership meeting Monday night, according to a source familiar with the matter. 

The meeting comes amid rising anxiety in Congress about the risk of exposure to the virus. Republican Reps. Paul Gosar of Arizona and Doug Collins of Georgia both said in statements this week that they will self-quarantine at home in their districts for 14 days after they came in contact with someone now hospitalized with COVID-19 at the recent Conservative Political Action Conference in Maryland. 

An aide for Collins told NBC News that two of his office staff are also self-quarantining. Collins shook hands with President Donald Trump in Atlanta on Friday, video and photos of them show.  

Rep. Julia Brownley. D-Calif., said in a statement Monday that she had met with someone who tested positive for infection and was closing her Washington office as a precautionary measure. She and her staff are "self-monitoring and maintaining social distancing practices" but are not experiencing symptoms.

The scene on Capitol Hill

A custodian walks past the office of Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., who is voluntarily quarantining after interacting with a person who has coronavirus, on Capitol Hill on Monday.Drew Angerer / Getty Images

Coronavirus mask mania spurs internet’s gray markets into action

Coronavirus-related products are still for sale across most major social media platforms, including through person-to-person messaging systems, despite some efforts to crack down on black- and gray-market activity around the outbreak.

Facebook temporarily banned ads and listings in its Craigslist-style classifieds section Marketplace for coronavirus masks Friday, but searches like “N95 mask surgical mask supplier” on Facebook turned up a variety of marketers selling on Pages and Groups.

The offerings highlight how the fringe markets of social media have seized on the coronavirus and been able to fly under the radar of broader efforts to stop misinformation and profiteering around it. Some accounts that purport to market other illicit goods such as drugs have even turned to coronavirus-related products.

Read the full story here.

2nd person dies in California

A woman in her 60s who had been hospitalized for several weeks died on Monday morning, the Santa Clara Public Health Department said — bringing the California death toll to two people.

She was the first person in Santa Clara County who was confirmed to be infected with the disease caused by coronavirus without any known history of international travel, or contact with an infected person — suggesting she contracted the disease in the community.

“This is a tragic development. The Public Health Department is taking necessary, carefully considered steps to slow down the spread of the disease and to protect those at greatest risk,” said Dr. Sara Cody, a health official for Santa Clara County.