What's Happening: Trump taps powers, auto factories closing

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Laurie Kuypers, a registered nurse, reaches into a car to take a nasopharyngeal swab from a patient at a drive-through COVID-19 coronavirus testing station for University of Washington Medicine patients Tuesday, March 17, 2020, in Seattle. The appointment-only drive-through clinic began a day earlier. Health authorities in Washington reported more COVID19 deaths in the state that has been hardest hit by the outbreak. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

These are some of the latest developments Wednesday in the world's coronavirus pandemic:


President Donald Trump invoked emergency authority to marshal industry to fight the coronavirus as the economic fallout from the crisis mounted. The entire U.S. auto industry announced it was shutting down its North American factories. Stocks tumbled again on fears of a prolonged recession, falling so fast they triggered another automatic trading halt. The Dow Jones Industrial Average shed more than 1,300 points, or over 6 percent, and has now lost nearly all of the big gains it had posted since Trump’s inauguration.


The number of people infected worldwide surpassed the 200,000 mark. Deaths topped 8,700, but the number of people considered recovered reached over 83,000, according to a tally kept by Johns Hopkins University. The countries with the most confirmed cases were China, Italy, Iran, Spain and Germany. The countries with the most confirmed deaths were China, Italy, Iran, Spain and France. The United Nations warned that the pandemic could lead to the loss of nearly 25 million jobs around the world.


More borders slammed shut across Europe and North America, with the U.S. and Canada closing their boundaries to all but essential travel. Trump says he plans to assert extraordinary powers to immediately turn back to Mexico anyone who crosses over the southern border illegally. European Union leaders agreed to shut down the bloc’s external borders and ban entry of most foreigners for 30 days.


Doctors in virtually every field are scrambling to alter care as the virus spreads. Some cancer surgeries are being delayed, many stent procedures for clogged arteries have been pushed back and infertility specialists are postponing efforts to help patients get pregnant. Medical groups issued advice this week on how hospitals and doctors should adapt as beds and supplies are pinched and worries rise about exposing patients to possible infection.


The U.S. government is rushing protective equipment to states, packing dozens of flights and hundreds of trucks with supplies like masks and gloves for medical workers on the front lines of the coronavirus fight. But the pandemic has exposed some of the Strategic National Stockpile’s shortcomings: The cache isn’t designed to be a long-term solution. State officials are complaining that the deliveries are falling far short of what’s needed or include expired items. The stockpile created in 1999 maintains caches of pharmaceuticals, medical supplies and vaccines in secret locations around the nation.


Singapore, a tiny city-state of less than 6 million people, had one of the earliest and biggest clusters of cases of the coronavirus in early February, before it began its rapid, inexorable expansion around the globe. But within weeks, the country’s tally of infections with the highly contagious virus that causes COVID-19 was overtaken by skyrocketing caseloads in South Korea, several European countries and the U.S. The experience in Singapore has shown that some strategies are proving more effective than others in containing the pandemic: proactive efforts to track down and isolate the infected, access to basic, affordable public health care, and clear, reassuring messaging from leaders.


Two 20-something friends amassed 1,300 volunteers in 72 hours to deliver groceries and medicine to older New Yorkers and other vulnerable people amid the coronavirus outbreak. Liam Elkind, a junior at Yale, and his friend Simone Policano call the project Invisible Hands. Grocery and pharmacy orders are placed on the Invisible Hands website and volunteers must practice social distancing and other safety measures in their own lives and wear gloves while shopping. Bags of goods are left at doors, and cash can be exchanged the same way or directly to a store or through a digital transaction.


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