US stock markets plunged yet again yesterday amid fears the new coronavirus outbreak will continue to disrupt the global economy. The Dow Jones Industrial Average plummeted nearly 3,000 points (-12.9%), the third biggest single-day percentage drop on record, just behind the crash of 1929 and the worst since Black Monday in 1987. The S&P 500 (-12%) and Nasdaq (-12.3%) cratered as well. The drops come despite the Federal Reserve announcing a monetary stimulus package on par with that of the 2008-09 recession Sunday; investors appear to be waiting for signs the pandemic is slowing.
In Washington, DC, the Supreme Court suspended its March session and the House indefinitely delayed its return from recess. The Senate remains in session, waiting to consider an $8B coronavirus aid package that covers coronavirus testing and includes expanded paid sick leave (with exemptions). Meanwhile, both the Trump administration and Senate Democrats prepared much heftier aid packages, with price tags nearing $800B. A White House coronavirus task force issued sweeping guidelines yesterday, advising older Americans to stay home and people of all ages to avoid groups of more than 10. Aides dispelled rumors of a potential national curfew.
The San Francisco Bay Area directed nearly 7 million people to shelter in place until April 7. As of this morning, the US had 4,661 confirmed cases and 85 deaths (real-time map).
To the north, Canada (439 confirmed cases, four deaths) announced it would bar visitors from foreign countries except the US. France (6,650 cases, 148 deaths) told residents to quarantine themselves for 15 days, while European Union leaders appear set to close all internal and external borders to nonessential travel for 30 days.
In positive news, the first patients in a vaccine trial received their initial doses, though it will take 12 to 18 months to determine its efficacy. Amazon said it would hire up to 100,000 new workers to help fulfill demand from shoppers avoiding grocery stores. Finally, see photos capturing intimacy and anxiety during the outbreak.
Gantz Tasked With Unity Government
Israeli President Reuven Rivlin formally asked former army chief Benny Gantz to attempt to build a coalition government yesterday in a bid to move past a political stalemate that has paralyzed the country for nearly a year. The decision is a blow to current Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who also faces corruption charges and is set to go on trial in May. Gantz's bid comes after Israel's third election in less than a year; all three contests saw Netanyahu's conservative bloc fall just short of capturing a majority in the 120-seat Knesset (see 101). In the past two attempts, the minority parties refused to work with Netanyahu but were too fractured to form their own unity government. This time around, they've tentatively agreed to back Gantz, giving him a shot at a slim 61-seat majority.
Netanyahu has also floated two separate options where the pair would rotate leading the country.
Ohio Primaries Postponed, Others Go On
Democrats and Republicans in Illinois and Florida, and Democrats in Arizona, cast ballots in state primary races today despite officials warning crowded polling stations could accelerate the spread of the coronavirus. Voters won't head to the polls in the key swing state of Ohio, where the state health commissioner gave a last-minute order to shut down elections. Joe Biden enters the day leading Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) in both delegate count (860-706) and polls (see averages), and the three states up for grabs account for 441 delegates. The races aren't winner-take-all and Sanders is expected to receive a number of delegates, though Biden remains an overwhelming favorite for a first-ballot nomination, which requires a minimum of 1,991 delegates. Mostly a formality, Trump is on track to lock up his party's nomination after today's races, having won all delegates to date except one.
Fears that polling stations will act as nodes for the outbreak are particularly acute in Florida, where a larger fraction of the electorate is elderly.
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In the Know
Sports, Entertainment, & Culture
> The 2020 NFL Draft will be closed to the public but will go on as planned April 23-25 in Las Vegas (More) | Heather Marini hired as Brown University’s quarterbacks coach, becoming first female Division I position coach (More)
> Regal Cinemas to close nationwide beginning today due to the coronavirus (More) | Universal Pictures to make films available for home streaming on the same day as their theatrical release (More)
> Actor Idris Elba announces he has the coronavirus; has been self-quarantined since exposure to the virus (More)
Science & Technology
> Report says the US Department of Health and Human Services was hit by a cyberattack Sunday night in an apparent effort to slow the response to the coronavirus outbreak (More)
> Study predicts the structure of ancient proteins that formed the basis for cellular metabolism up to 3.5 billion years ago, providing the building blocks of the first life on Earth (More)
> Researchers from Intel and Cornell University develop neuromorphic computer chip that can identify hazardous chemicals by their odor; chip mimics how the human brain learns and identifies smells (More)
Business & Markets
> Chinese economy experienced 5 million lost jobs, negative Q1 GDP for the first time on record in wake of the coronavirus outbreak that originated in the country (More)
> Starbucks to offer up to 20 annual therapy sessions to employees as part of an expansion of the company's mental health benefits (More)
Politics & World Affairs
> Gunman kills four, including police officer, crashing vehicle into Missouri gas station and opening fire; no motive identified (More)
> Justice Department drops criminal case against two Russian firms targeted in Special Counsel Robert Mueller's probe into Russian election interference; defendants were being tried in absentia (More)
> Senate approves 77-day extension of intelligence programs, including the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (More)
Inside a Massive DEA Raid
AP | Michael Balsamo. Controlling between one-third and two-thirds of the US drug market, the Jalisco New Generation Cartel may be the most dangerous drug organization you've never heard of. Take an inside look at a sweeping government raid across the US meant to dismantle the group's leadership in the country. (Read)
The Intercept | Staff. Despite being launched in 2017, the rabidly popular social video sharing platform TikTok was rated as the seventh most-downloaded app of the decade. Yet its growth was built in part on having moderators surreptitiously suppress users deemed too ugly, poor, or disabled to use the app. (Read)
Historybook: First Saint Patrick’s Day parade held (1601); Golf legend Bobby Jones born (1902); Singer Nat King Cole born (1919); National Gallery of Art opens in Washington, DC (1941); HBD soccer great Mia Hamm (1972).
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