Hundreds flood NYC hospital ICU and ERs as global coronavirus cases top 466,000

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  • Global cases: More than 466,000
  • Global deaths: At least 21,000
  • US cases: At least 65,100
  • US deaths: At least 900

The data above was compiled by Johns Hopkins University. 

7:11 pm: Salesforce promises no ‘significant’ layoffs over the next three months, even with coronavirus spreading

Salesforce won’t be cutting employees over the next few months even as the economy digests the consequences of the coronavirus continuing its spread.

The commitment, directly from Salesforce co-founder and CEO Marc Benioff, represents corporate determination from the top of a major employer — with more than 49,000 employees as of January 31 — to avoid contributing to a swell of unemployment. Last week the U.S. reported the highest week-over-week percentage increase in unemployment in history,  triggered by decreases in travel and local business lockdowns to slow the spread of COVID-19. California has received more than 1 million unemployment claims in less than two weeks, Gov. Gavin Newsom said on Wednesday.

“Salesforce is pledging to its workforce Ohana not to conduct any significant lay offs over the next 90 days,” Benioff wrote in a tweet on Wednesday. —Jordan Novet

7:04 pm: FDA warns consumers against fraudulent coronavirus tests, vaccines and treatments

Consumers should beware of buying or using products that sellers claim will help diagnose, treat, cure or prevent COVID-19 as the coronavirus continues to sweep across the country, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said Wednesday. 

Some companies are trying to profit from the pandemic by selling unproven and illegally marketed products and falsely claiming they are able to prevent or cure the coronavirus, the FDA said.

“Because COVID-19 has never been seen in humans before, there are currently no vaccines to prevent or drugs to treat” the coronavirus that have been approved by the FDA, the agency said. “These fraudulent products that claim to cure, treat, or prevent COVID-19 haven’t been evaluated by the FDA for safety and effectiveness and might be dangerous to you and your family.” —Noah Higgins-Dunn

6:57 pm: Updated map of global coronavirus cases, which now total 466,955

6:48 pm: New York hospitals battle coronavirus as hundreds of patients flood in: ‘We must not break’

A staff member pushes a wheelchair at St. Barnabas Hospital on March 23, 2020 in the Bronx borough of New York City.

Misha Friedman

The top surgeon of a major New York City hospital dealing with a flood of hundreds of patients infected with the coronavirus rallied his staff with a letter that compared the pandemic to a typhoon, and urged them to stand strong in its face.

“A forest of bamboo bends to the ground in a typhoon but rarely breaks,” wrote Dr. Craig Smith, surgeon in chief at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center in upper Manhattan.

“We are that forest and we must not break,” Smith wrote. “By the people, for the people.”

Hospitals in New York City now have more than 2,800 patients with the coronavirus, straining their existing capacity. —Dan Mangan

6:41 pm: Futures point to gains at the open, building on two-day rally

U.S. stock futures moved modestly higher in early trading and pointed to gains at the open on Thursday, building on recent strength in the Dow Jones Industrial Average and S&P 500.

The two indexes have just posted their first back-to-back gains since February. Fueling the rally is the hope that the White House and Senate will soon agree to a stimulus package to prop up markets as the coronavirus outbreak rages on.

Dow futures rose 161 points, indicating a gain of 107 points at the open. The S&P 500 and Nasdaq were also set to open higher, with gains of 0.8% and 1%, respectively. —Pippa Stevens

6:36 pm: Pregnant medical workers are making hard decisions

Across the country, frontline medical workers are terrified about the potential of contracting the coronavirus because of a swarm of new cases, the lack of protective equipment and a dearth of nationwide standards.

For pregnant health-care workers, like Dr. Sonia Singh in Houston, circumstances are all the more frightening, given general uncertainty about whether they’re at greater risk of getting sick from the virus.

Dr. Singh, an internist at Memorial Hermann Health System, is 33 weeks pregnant. Along with her fellow pregnant doctors and nurses across the country, Singh is working without clear guidelines on whether she should continue to see patients, although her hospital has encouraged her to switch to virtual consultations where possible.

“I feel some guilt that I can’t see my patients like I normally would,” said Dr. Singh, who has a cleaning station in her home garage for when she or her husband, who’s a critical care doctor and a pulmonologist, return for the day. —Christina Farr

5 pm: As American’s hunker down, Lowe’s CEO Marvin Ellison says they’re doing home projects

Along with binge-watching TV, Lowe’s CEO Marvin Ellison said Americans are also doing DIY projects as they stay home during the coronavirus pandemic.

In an interview with CNBC, Ellison said the home improvement retailer has seen an increase across nearly every store category as customers stock up on cleaning supplies, buy appliances and purchase other items to fix up or maintain their homes.

“As customers are sheltering in place, they’re looking at that deferred list of home projects,” he said. “As they spend time around the home, they now have more time on their hands to tackle some of those things.” Some of their purchases are inspired by staying in. For example, Ellison said customers are buying new water heaters as homes fill up with kids home from college, or additional refrigerators and freezers as they stock-up on food. —Melissa Repko

4:44 pm: California sees one million unemployment claims in less than two weeks

Workers install wood panels over the windows of The RealReal Inc. store in San Francisco, California, U.S., on Tuesday, March 24, 2020.

David Paul Morris | Getty Images

California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that Wells Fargo, Citi, JPMorgan, and U.S. Bank all agreed to grant a 90-day waiver for mortgage payments “for those impacted by COVID-19.” The announcement came after he said that one million Californians have applied for unemployment insurance since March 13. Newsom also announced measures the state is taking to prepare for a surge in COVID-19 patients. The state has ordered 100 million new masks, he said, and the state is ramping up its number of available hospital beds and ventilators, a potentially life-saving device that helps patients breathe. —Will Feuer

4:30 pm: Walmart offers to help its small business partners

Walmart said Wednesday it is offering help to its small business partners as the coronavirus forces consumers to self-isolate and companies to shut stores. More than 10,000 businesses operate within Walmart Supercenters and Sam’s Clubs, including hair and nail salons, optometrists, restaurant franchises, veterinary clinics and local and regional banks. Walmart is waiving rent for all of these property partners for the month of April. In addition, Walmart is making changes to its supply-chain financing program to help qualified suppliers get payments faster. The retailer is adding dedicated resources to speed up its onboarding process and eliminate an eligibility requirement and has added a third banking partner. JPMorgan Chase. Citibank and Wells Fargo were already partners. —Sarah Whitten

4:15 pm: Idaho under statewide ‘stay home’ order

Idaho Gov. Brad Little issued a “stay home” order for all of Idaho that includes the closure of nonessential businesses. “Idaho is now in a new stage with confirmed community transmission now occurring in Idaho’s most densely populated areas,” Little said at a press briefing. He said that residents will still able to leave their homes to obtain necessary services and that essential businesses will remain open. However, nonessential businesses such as bars, nightclubs, gyms, recreational facilities and others will have to close. —Hannah Miller

4 pm: Dow jumps more than 2%, posts first back-to-back gain since February

The Dow Jones Industrial Average jumped more than 13% in two days as a coronavirus stimulus deal was passed by Congress. Positive comments from New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and a former Federal Reserve chief also lifted equities.

The 30-stock average climbed more than 2%, or 482 points, on Wednesday. The S&P 500 was up by 1.1%. Wednesday marked the first time since February the Dow and S&P 500 closed higher in back-to-back sessions. The Nasdaq Composite dipped 0.5%, however. Boeing shares rallied 24% to lead the Dow higher. A 9.2% gain in Nike also boosted the Dow. —Fred Imbert

3:50 pm: Virginia governor urges Liberty University president to reconsider inviting students back to school

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam urged Jerry Falwell Jr., the president of Liberty University, to reconsider an invitation for students to return to the school’s Lynchburg campus. Northam quoted Biblical scripture in arguing that Liberty should follow the example of other universities and schools in Virginia and remain closed. The “Bible says it is required those who have been given a trust must prove faithful,” Northam said. “It means respecting the duty that liberty university has to student, staff, community and commonwealth.” Virginia has nearly 400 cases of coronavirus. —Dan Mangan

3:45 pm: Sanders’ fight with GOP senators over unemployment aid threatens to delay coronavirus stimulus

A planned Senate vote on a historic $2 trillion relief package in response to the coronavirus pandemic looked murky Wednesday as senators threatened to delay it over a key unemployment insurance proposal. —Jacob Pramuk

3:18 pm: SpaceX is making and donating hand sanitizer and face shields

SpaceX is making hand sanitizer and face shields and donating them to local hospitals and other businesses, according to a memo sent to employees over the weekend.

Elon Musk’s aerospace company told employees via an internal memo that it built 75 face shields over the weekend, and delivered them to Cedars Sinai, a local health system near its headquarters in Hawthorne, California. It also donated 100 “tyvek” protective suits to medical personnel at the hospital, and is scaling up efforts to produce and distribute hand sanitizer that “complies with CDC guidelines and is effective at killing the COVID-19 coronavirus.” Employees have also convinced SpaceX to host a blood drive with the American Red Cross in Hawthorne later this week, the memo said. —Lora Kolodny

3:01 pm: Markets await Thursday’s record-breaking jobless claims in the millions

Traders have been waiting for Thursday’s weekly jobless claims to see how bad the labor market has been hit by efforts to stop the spread of coronavirus. Economists’ forecasts range from about 1 million to 4 million, and they say next week’s report could also be record-setting. The biggest layoffs are expected to come from the restaurants and leisure industries, as well as retail. In the financial crisis, one week claims peaked at about 650,000.

“Thursday’s claims is going to certainly show the largest spike in history,” said BMO fixed income strategist Jon Hill. “I think the bulk of the expectations are between 1.5 and 3 million. If people see a low 700,000, they’re just going to say next week is going to be worse.” —Patti Domm

3:00 pm: US counties where cases are booming

2:57 pm: Facebook’s Portal TV device is completely sold out

When Facebook launched the Portal TV video chat system in November, critics quickly shot down the idea of putting a Facebook camera and microphone in their homes. Reviewers, including CNBC’s own, worried that Facebook didn’t take privacy very seriously. But consumers have put those fears aside.

With people stuck indoors and seeking the best way to stay in touch with family and friends, the Portal TV is completely sold out on Facebook’s website and from retailers like Best Buy.

There are four Facebook Portal gadgets, including a big one that initially launched in 2018two frame-sized devices and the $149 Portal TV, which uses your TV as a big video chat screen and provides really high-quality wide-angle lenses. —Todd Haselton

2:46 pm: Tony Awards for Broadway theater postponed indefinitely, organizers say

The annual Tony Awards ceremony celebrating the best in Broadway theater have been postponed indefinitely, organizers said. The awards ceremony was due to take place in New York City on June 7. Broadway theatres were shut down two weeks ago due to the coronavirus epidemic. —Reuters

2:42 pm: Statewide restrictions roll across the country

2:23 pm: WHO chief calls virus ‘Public Enemy No. 1’

Calling the coronavirus pandemic “Public Enemy No. 1,” World Health Organization officials warned that the final death toll of the outbreak depends on how governments and citizens respond to the spreading pandemic.

“The pandemic continues to take a massive toll,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a press briefing. “We have overcome many pandemics and crises before. We will overcome this one, too. The question is how large a price we will pay.” —Dan Mangan, Noah Higgins-Dunn, Will Feuer

2:08 pm: New Orleans is next coronavirus epicenter, catalyst for spread in south, experts say

New Orleans is on track to become the next coronavirus epicenter in the United States, dashing hopes that less densely populated and warmer-climate cities would not be hit as hard by the pandemic, and that summer months could see it wane.

The plight of New Orleans — with the world’s highest growth rate in coronavirus cases and where authorities have warned hospitals could collapse by April 4 — also raises fears it may be a powerful catalyst in speedily spreading the virus across the south of the country.

Some 70% of Louisiana’s 1,795 confirmed cases to date are in the New Orleans metro area. —Reuters

2:00 pm: FDA green-lights self-administered COVID-19 tests

UnitedHealth Group said the the FDA has updated its guidance, allowing people to test themselves at home for COVID-19, after a study showed that self tests are as effective as self-administered tests. The hope is to reduce the burden on clinicians to perform the tests, and potentially expose themselves in the process. The health insurer completed a study of 500 patients in Washington State, finding that the self tests accurately detected COVID-19 in 90% of cases. Its partners include the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the University of Washington and Quest Diagnostics. —Christina Farr

1:52 pm: Dow jumps 1,300 points as gains accelerate

1:37 pm: Italy deaths rise by 683 in a day, lifting global death toll passed 20,000

A medical worker in protective gear tends to a patient on March 24, 2020 at the new COVID 3 level intensive care unit for coronavirus COVID-19 cases at the Casal Palocco hospital near Rome, during the country’s lockdown aimed at stopping the spread of the COVID-19 (new coronavirus) pandemic.

Alberto Pizzoli | AFP | Getty Images

The death toll from an outbreak of coronavirus in Italy has grown by 683 to 7,503, the Civil Protection Agency said, a decline in the daily tally of fatalities following a spike the day before.

On Tuesday 743 people died. That followed 602 deaths on Monday, 650 on Sunday and a record of 793 on Saturday — the highest daily figure since the contagion came to light on Feb. 21. The newly reported deaths lift the global death toll passed 20,000. 

The total number of confirmed cases in Italy rose to 74,386 from a previous 69,176, the Civil Protection Agency said.

Of those originally infected nationwide, 9,362 had fully recovered on Wednesday compared to 8,326 the day before. There were 3,489 people in intensive care against a previous 3,396. —Reuters with contribution from CNBC

1:30 pm: WHO officials hold live press conference

1:19 pm: Private equity eyes coronavirus-struck industries

The coronavirus pandemic is shutting down entire sectors of the economy and putting millions of Americans out of work, but one corner of Wall Street may find opportunity amid the carnage: private equity.

The group, which includes investment giants BlackstoneCarlyle and KKR, has a record $1.5 trillion in cash ready to deploy and has been actively seeking deals across the struggling travel, entertainment and energy industries, according to a half-dozen investment bankers who declined to be identified speaking candidly about potential clients.

“They have been waiting for this type of market dislocation,” the head of mergers at a major Wall Street firm told CNBC in an interview. “I don’t think they wanted something quite this bad, but they did want a pullback in valuation.” —Hugh Son, Alex Sherman, Lauren Hirsch

1:10 pm: Cuomo says Senate bill would be ‘terrible’ for NY

The Senate’s $2 trillion coronavirus relief bill may be the largest rescue package in U.S. history, but it “would really be terrible for the state of New York,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said. Cuomo said the bill provides $3.8 billion for New York state, of which only $1.3 billion will be sent to New York City.

“Sounds like a lot of money,” Cuomo said. But it’s far below the shortfall in revenue that the state projects it will face, which could total $15 billion, according to the governor. “That is a drop in the bucket” compared with what New Yorkers need, he said. “How do you plug a $15 billion hole with $3.8 billion? You don’t.” —Kevin Breuninger

12:53 pm: Dow rallies 5% to build on historic 11% surge from a day before

12:33 pm: Masks donated by Apple and Facebook for health workers were stockpiled after wildfire regulations

When large tech companies including Apple and Facebook announced this week that they’d be donating stockpiles of protective masks to health workers around the world, some people may have wondered why they had them in the first place.

Executives said they had them in storage because of the recent spate of wildfires in California. They were required to have them by law. 

In 2019, the state of California’s Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board adopted regulation forcing employers to provide respiratory equipment, including N95 masks, for workers when the Air Quality Index (AQI) reaches unhealthy levels. —Ari Levy

12:20 pm: State AGs call on Amazon, Facebook and others to crack down on coronavirus price gouging

A group of 33 state attorneys general called on Amazon, Ebay, Facebook, Walmart and Craigslist to prevent price gouging on coronavirus-related products.

The coalition, led by Pennsylvania’s Democratic Attorney General Josh Shapiro, sent a letter to the companies saying they “have an ethical obligation and patriotic duty to help your fellow citizens in this time of need by doing everything in your power to stop price gouging in real-time.” Attorneys general from California, Colorado and the District of Columbia were among those involved in the effort.

The letters acknowledge that platforms have already taken steps to remove some of the price-gouged products on their sites, but says consumers were already harmed by their presence. The attorneys general urge the companies to take proactive measures to prevent price-gouging on their sites, “[r]ather than playing whack-a-mole.” —Lauren Feiner, Scott Zamost

12:13 pm: House unlikely to vote on historic $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus bill Wednesday

The White House and Senate leaders reached a deal early Wednesday on a massive $2 trillion relief bill — said to be the largest rescue package in American history — to combat the economic impact of the coronavirus outbreak.

As of Wednesday morning, though, the Senate was still drafting the final details of the text. A senior Democratic aide told CNBC that due to procedural reasons, including how long it is taking the Senate to send over a draft of the bill, it is unlikely the House will vote on it Wednesday. The House needs to pass the bill before it can reach President Donald Trump’s desk. —Lauren Hirsch, Leslie Josephs

12:05 pm: One week into shelter-in-place, San Francisco businesses are making big changes to stay afloat

A pedestrian crosses the near empty California Street in San Francisco, California, U.S., on Friday, March 20, 2020.

Michael Short | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Hundreds of Bay Area business owners upending their traditional business models to combat a coronavirus-induced plunge in sales. It’s been one week since San Francisco Mayor London Breed and fellow Northern California officials unveiled what was, at the time, the most stringent set of restrictions to curb the coronavirus — a “shelter-in-place” order affecting 7 million residents in six Bay Area counties. The directive shuttered non-essential businesses and mandated residents leave home only for essential needs, such as grocery shopping and picking up prescriptions. 

Since then, governors across the country have announced similar measures. Stay-at-home orders now blanket 16 states, from Hawaii to Connecticut. Many are looking to San Francisco for signs of what these shutdowns could portend for local economies across the country. —J.R. Reed

11:56 am: What the coronavirus bill means for unemployment benefits, gig workers

A coronavirus relief bill unveiled Tuesday would significantly expand unemployment benefits for Americans who lose their jobs due to the country’s recent economic contagion. 

The measure would beef up the nation’s unemployment insurance program, a state-administered program that provides temporary income support for out-of-work Americans. Final language could change before the bill’s scheduled release later today, though experts don’t expect it will relative to unemployment.

Under the legislation, unemployed workers would both collect bigger unemployment checks — which could, in some cases, even exceed their typical wages — and receive those payments over a longer period of time.

The legislation would also extend benefits to a broader pool of people, like gig workers and freelancers. —Greg Iacurci

11:49 am: New York City weighs closing parks, playgrounds and streets to enforce social distancing

Gov. Andrew Cuomo plans to close some streets in New York City and may close parks and playgrounds there to contain the coronavirus outbreak as cases across the state surge to 30,811, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said.

State and local officials are taking a tougher stance because city residents aren’t following the state’s guidance encouraging people to maintain a distance of at least six feet from each other, which he said was “effective and necessary” to slow hospitalization rates.

“The plan is going to pilot closing streets in New York City because we have much less traffic in New York City. We have many fewer vehicles in New York City. Open streets,” by opening the streets, fewer people will congregate in the parks, he said in a press conference. —Will Feuer

11:41 am: Legal cannabis industry sees record sales as customers facing coronavirus crisis stock up

Steven DeAngelo has seen it all. As the so-called “father of the legal cannabis industry,” he co-founded one of the largest vertically integrated licensed cannabis businesses in California, called Harborside, with four stores and $60 million in annual revenues.

But what’s happened in the last month is something new. “We had our largest sales day ever,” he says. “Sales are up 20-25% at all locations.”

Across the country, sales are sky-high in states where legal cannabis has been declared “essential medicine” during state shutdowns, allowing stores to stay open. —Jane Wells

11:31 am: Which countries are flattening the curve?

11:26 am: BMW closes South Carolina plant

BMW announced that it plans to close its plant in Spartanburg, South Carolina, through April 12. The plant is the company’s largest in the world by volume, producing over 411,600 vehicles in 2019 and employing over 11,000 people.

BMW said the move was sooner than anticipated due to shelter-in-place orders in individual states and will adjust its plans as circumstances dictate. – Noah Higgins-Dunn, Phil LeBeau

11:21 am: Cramer: Amazon shares could shatter last month’s all-time highs after pandemic crisis abates

Amazon may be the ultimate beneficiary in the post-coronavirus world, CNBC’s Jim Cramer said, suggesting the company’s cloud unit and e-commerce business are both positioned nicely to thrive.

“I think Amazon could go to $3,000 in this market,” Cramer said on “Squawk on the Street.” That would represent a more than 37% increase over last month’s all-time high.

Since its Feb. 11 record, Amazon has dropped 11% as of Tuesday’s close of $1,940 per share. While lower, the stock has held up much better than that S&P 500, which has seen a nearly 28% decline from last month’s highs. —Kevin Stankiewicz

11:12 am: Negative rates come to the US: 1-month and 3-month Treasury bill yields are now negative

The coronavirus crisis has brought another first to U.S. financial markets — negative yields on government debt.

Yields on both the one-month and three-month Treasury bills dipped below zero, a week and a half after the Federal Reserve cuts its benchmark rate to near-zero and as investors have flocked to the safety of fixed income amid general market turmoil. —Jeff Cox

11:03 am: US auto sales expected to fall at least 15% this year due to the coronavirus 

This photo taken on March 23, 2020 shows employees eating during lunch break at an auto plant of Dongfeng Honda in Wuhan in China’s central Hubei province.

STR | AFP | China

U.S. auto sales are expected to fall at least 15% this year as the country implements more aggressive restrictions to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, threatening an already-stressed autos industry, according to new research from IHS Markit. 

The COVID-19 pandemic that has spread to nearly every country on the globe has forced a number of governments to implement drastic measures to slow its spread. This has posed the single biggest risk factor for the autos industry in years as consumer demand stalls, according to IHS Markit. 

IHS Markit forecasts 2020 U.S. auto sales to be 14.4 million units, down by at least 15.3% year-over-year. The global auto sales forecast is expected to decline more than 12% from last year to 78.8 million units, according to IHS Markit, which would be a larger decline than the 8% drop during the Great Recession a decade ago. —Noah Higgins-Dunn

10:12 am: Putin, citing coronavirus, postpones vote on changes that could extend his rule

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday said he was postponing a nationwide vote on constitutional changes that would allow him to extend his rule due to the worsening situation with coronavirus.

The vote, on changes that include scrapping a constitutional ban on Putin running again for president in 2024, had been planned for April 22.

Putin did not name a new date for the vote, saying only that he and others would evaluate the situation to decide when the time for a new vote was right. —Reuters

10:03 am: New York City hospitals are nearly ‘maxed out,’ former FDA chief says

Hospitals in New York City are nearing capacity due to an influx of coronavirus patients, former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb told CNBC. 

COVID-19 has killed 192 people in New York City, according to Johns Hopkins University, but Gottlieb said that number will rise if the hospitals become overwhelmed. 

“New York City hospitals right now are on the brink of what I would call being maxed out in terms of their available capacity,” he said on “Squawk Box.” “New York has another about five weeks to go for this between now and when they’re going to reach peak hospitalizations, so the fact that they’re stretched right now is worrisome.” —William Feuer

9:37 am: Almost half NYC’s coronavirus patients are under 45

Almost half, 48%, of New York City’s 15,597 coronavirus cases are under 45 years old. But an overwhelming majority of those patients are surviving, accounting for just 3% of the city’s 192 COVID-19 fatalities, according to new data from the NYC Health Department.

Parents can take comfort in this stat: zero kids have died. Children under 18 make up just 2% of the city’s cases. Men appear to be disproportionately affected, making up 56% of the cases and 61% of the deaths. The biggest outbreaks in the city are in Queens where 30% of the cases are concentrated, followed by Brooklyn, which has 28% of the cases. —Dawn Kopecki

9:29 am: Nine European countries say it is time for ‘corona bonds’ as virus death toll rises

Nine European countries have called upon their EU counterparts to issue so-called ‘corona bonds’ — a new debt instrument that would combine securities from different European countries. 

Corona bonds are a controversial issue that has been dividing the 27-country region. Conservative policymakers in countries such as Germany, the Netherlands and Austria are often wary of the idea of issuing debt together with highly indebted nations, such as Italy, Greece and Portugal. —Silvia Amaro

9:11 am: Gottlieb: Coronavirus fatality rates could increase if hospitals get overwhelmed

Dr. Scott Gottlieb, member of the boards of Pfizer and biotech company Illumina and former FDA commissioner, joins “Squawk Box” to discuss the latest on mitigating the spread of coronavirus in the United States.

8:55 am: Facebook, Microsoft partner with WHO for coronavirus hackathon

The World Health Organization has partnered with FacebookMicrosoft and several other tech companies for a hackathon to promote the development of software to take on challenges related to the coronavirus pandemic.

The #BuildforCOVID19 hackathon was announced on Tuesday and will begin accepting project submissions on Thursday. Along with Facebook and Microsoft, tech companies Twitter, WeChat, TikTok, PinterestSlack and Giphy are also participating. The tech companies “will be sharing resources to support participants throughout the submission period.” —Salvador Rodriguez 

8:49 am: Weekly mortgage applications tank 29% as coronavirus sidelines homebuyers

An increase in interest rates, combined with a massive shutdown of the economy caused homeowners and potential homebuyers to back away from the mortgage market. Total mortgage application volume fell 29.4% last week from the previous week, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association’s seasonally adjusted index. 

Applications to refinance a home loan, which had been surging dramatically in the last month, fell 34% for the week but were still 195% higher than a year ago, when rates were 63 basis points higher. Refinances tend to be volatile, moving weekly with interest rates. —Diana Olick

8:23 am: UK intensive care demand could peak within 3 weeks

If Britain’s measures for tackling the coronavirus outbreak work, then intensive care demand will peak in 2.5 to 3 weeks time, a top epidemiologist who advised the government said on Wednesday.

“If, and it’s an if, we’re moderately confident as I’ve said but can’t be completely sure, if the current measures work as we would expect them to then we will see intensive care unit demand peak in approximately two and half to three weeks’ time and then decline thereafter,” Neil Ferguson, a professor of mathematical biology at Imperial College London, told a British parliamentary committee. —Reuters

7:56 am: Dow futures drop 200 points after surging overnight

Stock futures fell in early morning trading, following Tuesday’s historic rally, despite the White House and Senate reaching a deal on a $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus bill.

Around 7:40 a.m. ET, futures on the Dow Jones Industrial Average were down 200 points, or 1%. S&P 500 and Nasdaq 100 futures were down 1.8% and 1.5%, respectively. Dow futures were up more than 800 points at one point in the overnight session. —Fred Imbert, Yun Li, Eustance Huang

7:42 am: Canadian legislators vote for coronavirus aid

After almost a day of wrangling, Canada’s House of Commons agreed early Wednesday to approve a $27 billion Canadian ($18.8 billion) stimulus bill to help people and businesses deal with the coronavirus outbreak.

The bill — which also includes CA $55 billion in the form of tax deferrals — must now be approved by the unelected Senate, which will meet later Wednesday. Government officials say they anticipate senators will quickly approve the measures. —Reuters

7:14 am: Trump businesses barred from getting stimulus money, Schumer says

President Donald Trump holds a news conference, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Washington D.C., March 22, 2020.

Yuri Gripas | Reuters

President Donald Trump’s businesses are barred from getting loans or investments under the new $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus deal, according to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. The Trump Organization, which the president has not divested, is run by his two elder sons, Donald Jr. and Eric.

Democrats and other critics of the president were concerned that Trump’s businesses would receive bailout money because the tourism industry is one of the hardest-hit by the coronavirus, which has spurred leaders to restrict travel and companies to cut capacity and close up shop. The measure will also ban businesses controlled by Vice President Mike Pence, Cabinet members and lawmakers from receiving the funds, according to details circulated by Schumer, D-N.Y. —Mike Calia

7:10 am: Prince Charles, heir to the British throne, tests positive

A file photo dated on January 24, 2020 shows the Prince of Wales, Charles meets Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at the presidential palace in Bethlehem, West Bank. Prince Charles, next in line to the British throne, has tested positive for coronavirus.

Issam Rimawi | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

Britain’s heir to the throne, Prince Charles, has tested positive for the coronavirus, according to a statement from his London household. “He has been displaying mild symptoms but otherwise remains in good health and has been working from home throughout the last few days as usual,” said a statement Wednesday from Clarence House, his residence in the capital. It is not possible to determine how the 71-year-old Prince of Wales contracted the virus, the statement said, “owing to the high number of engagements he carried out in his public role during recent weeks.” —Katrina Bishop, Holly Ellyatt

7:06 am: Target delays store remodels, withdraws forecast

Target is putting some of its ambitious growth plans on hold. The big-box retailer will put on hold plans to remodel hundreds of stores, postponing openings of new stores and delaying the addition of fresh groceries and beer to curbside pickup. Instead, Target CEO Brian Cornell said the retailer will focus on a singular mission: providing food, medicine and other essential items. He said Target is withdrawing its guidance for the first quarter and fiscal year because of the unpredictable business climate. —Melissa Repko

6:44 am: Surge of cases in Africa prompted decision to cancel Olympics, IOC says

6:37 am: Zambia’s cases increase to 12

Zambia’s number of confirmed cases rose to 12 from three, President Edgar Lungu said in a televised address. The previous figure had not been updated since March 22, Reuters reported. —Holly Ellyatt

6:30 am: Tokyo governor to ask residents to stay indoors over weekend as cases rise, NHK reports

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