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Restrictions on daily life grow as U.S. death toll climbs

Here are the latest updates from around the world.
A traveler talks with a security officer at Washington Union Station, a major transportation hub in the nation's capital, on March 16, 2020.
A traveler talks with a security officer at Washington Union Station, a major transportation hub in the nation's capital, on March 16, 2020.J. Scott Applewhite / AP

The Dow Jones plunged nearly 3,000 points as U.S. states and major cities are following European nations and capitals in shutting down schools, bars and theaters to try and delay the spread of coronavirus.

California officials announced a complete lockdown of the Bay Area, including San Francisco, that requires people to stay home except for essential needs, and the governor of Ohio is recommending postponing the state's primary elections originally scheduled for Tuesday.

New York, Los Angeles and Washington state have all announced public buildings will be shut temporarily, amid fears that the number of cases will continue to grow beyond the confirmed 4,000. The National Security Council stressed Sunday night that there is no U.S.-wide shutdown or national quarantine.

A long list of European nations that have enacted severe countrywide lockdowns, including France, Spain, Denmark, Netherlands and the Republic of Ireland. Italy, the worst affected European country, has recorded more than 1,800 coronavirus-related deaths so far and expects some 90,000 infections by the end of April.

The U.S. death toll climbed to at least 85, with 25 of those deaths associated with the Life Care Center in Kirkland, Washington.

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Nordstrom to temporarily close all stores

Nordstrom will close all of its stores for two weeks starting Tuesday for the health and safety of customers and employees, the retailer said Monday.

Its websites will remain open for business. Employees will receive pay and benefits. “We realize the impact a closure can have on our store employees, and this is not a decision we made lightly,” Nordstrom said.

Nordstrom has 117 full-line stores in the U.S. and Canada, and also has 250 Nordstrom Rack stores among other businesses, according to its website.

Several other companies, including Apple, have also announced temporary closures. Cosmetics and beauty chain Sephora also on Monday announced it would close all stores in the United States and Canada starting at 5 p.m. Tuesday and lasting until April 3.

Companies offer help with missed payments, disconnections

Some of the largest companies are waiving late fees, forgiving missed payments and expanding services as the threat of economic hardship looms along with the coronavirus outbreak in the United States.

More than 100 municipal water and utility companies across 34 states said they won't shut off water service for late payments, and utility companies from Duke Energy in North Carolina to regional utility companies in California have all suspended shut-offs for nonpayment as the virus continues to disrupt daily life.

Credit card companies said they are offering relief programs, and a group of broadband and telecommunications companies has pledged to postpone termination of services for the next 60 days for customers unable to pay their bills.

Read the full story here.

New York Times staffer tests positive

An employee at The New York Times has tested positive for the coronavirus illness COVID-19, the newspaper’s publisher and executive editor said in a note to staff.

“The staff member has not been hospitalized and is in self-quarantine, recovering at home. The individual was last in the office on Thursday, March 5,” publisher A.G. Sulzberger and executive editor Dean Baquet wrote in the note.

The employee was not identified. “We have informed all the individuals who were in close proximity to this colleague. We’ve been in contact with each and asked them to monitor their health and self-quarantine,” they wrote, adding that having the vast majority of staff work from home is in everyone’s best interest.

Asian shares bounce after Wall Street dive

BANGKOK — Shares reversed early losses in Asia on Tuesday after the U.S. stock market plunged to its worst day in more than three decades and huge swaths of many economies came to a standstill as businesses and travel shut down due to the virus outbreak.

Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 reversed early losses to gain 0.7 percent while the Hang Seng in Hong Kong jumped 0.9 percent. Shares also rose in Thailand and Australia, but fell in other regional markets.

Monday’s 12 percent drop for the S&P 500, its worst day in more than 30 years, came as voices from Wall Street to the White House said the coronavirus may be dragging the economy into a recession.

The rebound in Asia followed news that the Trump administration plans strong support for airlines stricken by the outbreak and is pushing the Senate to enact a massive stimulus package to alleviate losses for businesses and individuals affected by the outbreak, which has infected more than 182,000 people worldwide, 4,600 in the United States.

Texas's first death was elderly patient

A Texas hospital district said Monday that a patient in his 90s who died Sunday tested positive for the coronavirus illness COVID-19. It appears to be the state's first death linked to the disease.

The Matagorda County Hospital District said the death was its second positive case, and that the state “launched an extensive investigation into this second positive case.” There have been at least 86 deaths linked to the illness in the United States, according to an NBC News count.

There were 57 coronavirus cases in the state as of noon Monday, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services’ website.

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California governor halts evictions and foreclosures

California Gov. Gavin Newsom halted evictions and foreclosures statewide Monday in an executive order aimed at protecting businesses and residents from the coronavirus’ economic impact.

The order also protects Californians from utility shutoffs. Newsom tasked the state’s utility regulator with making sure electric, gas, water, internet and phone service remain functional if a customer’s payment is late.

“People shouldn’t lose or be forced out of their home because of the spread of COVID-19,” Newsom said in a statement.

The protections will remain in effect through May 31.

In a briefing, Newsom said that 392 people in the state have tested positive for the disease — an increase of 57 people from Sunday. Six people have died, he said.

Los Angeles sheriff releasing inmates, urging fewer arrests

The Los Angeles County sheriff said Monday that his department had reduced the number of inmates in his custody by about 600, in part by granting early release, amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Police departments are also being asked to cite and release offenders when possible, and that average daily arrests have dropped by around 300 a day to 60 a day.

Sheriff Alex Villanueva said that inmate populations are vulnerable and the moves are designed to help protect them. There have been no confirmed cases among inmates, but 35 are in isolation housing or quarantine, he said.

Read the full story here.

Health metrics expert: U.S. likely headed for nationwide quarantine

S. Carolina's first death brings U.S. toll to 85

South Carolina’s health department on Thursday announced the state’s first death related to the coronavirus illness COVID-19, an elderly resident of a nursing home.

“DHEC is working with the facility to identify all contacts and is providing guidance about infection control measures to prevent spread,” South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control said in a statement.

Coronavirus cases have been reported in 49 of the 50 U.S. states and Washington, D.C., as well as Puerto Rico, according to an NBC count of reports. West Virginia has reported no cases. As of Monday night, there have been 4,424 including 85 deaths across the U.S., according to that count, which includes presumptive positive and confirmed cases, people who have recovered and those repatriated from outside the country.

Staffing firm sees 'unprecedented' demand for nurses

A New York City-based staffing firm is looking to hire thousands of nurses and other hospital staff amid “unprecedented” demand across the country, the company’s president, Michael Fazio, told NBC News.

Fazio said Prime Staffing NYC, which operates in 15 states, has seen a 95 percent increase in job openings for nurses in the last two weeks — and he’s trying to hire 750 for the New York tri-state region alone.

“More nurses are needed in this crisis time,” he said. “We’re trying to take care of nurses, to protect them and their families so that they and their families feel comfortable going to work and providing  care.”

The company is offering incentives like car service with screened drivers, paid childcare, sealed, prepared meals and access to a private lab for testing.

Such perks are cutting into the company’s margins “significantly,” Fazio said, but he believes they’re necessary to get nurses “the care they deserve” and to “keep the system running.”