Gazette Daily News Podcast, March 19

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It may not feel like it exactly, but today is the vernal equinox, marking the first day of spring. Due to a quirk of both leap year and daylight saving time, this is the earliest spring will start in the United States in 124 years. It also is one of two days in the year where day and night are perfectly balanced, as all things should be.

Stormy weather is coming Thursday, including some of our first thunderstorms of the year. According to the National Weather Service, there will be a slight chance of storms Thursday morning but this will increase in likelihood in the early afternoon into the evening in the Cedar Rapids area. There will be a high of 58 degrees, but the temperature will drop as the day goes on, and in the overnight hours Thursday into Friday the rain showers could turn into partial snow showers. So we’ll have a little bit of everything on our first day of Spring, everything except a sunny windfree day.

In other worldly respects, it’s just another day, and that means another day of coronavirus updates. Iowa’s number of confirmed cases of the COVID-19 strain of the coronavirus is now up to 38, but testing continues to lag. There have been 7,038 cases reported nationally so far, with 97 deaths from the disease, with no deaths so far in Iowa. In other major COVID-19 news in the state, Iowa’s three regent universities the University of Iowa, the University of Northern Iowa, and Iowa State University will be canceling their commencement ceremonies and holding classes online for the rest of spring semester. School administrators said Wednesday they are looking to hold an alternate celebration that could be livestreamed.

The three universities joined multiple private and junior colleges who had already canceled their in person classes for the rest of the semester.

Nationally, the topsy turvy stock market closed down again Wednesday, falling 1,300 points. The United States and Canada mutually agreed to close the northern border barring what they called “non-essential” travel. A $100 billion relief bill providing funding for expanded leave and more free coronavirus testing was passed by congress and signed by President Donald Trump. The White House also indicated that they would like an additional $1 trillion stimulus infusion into the American economy, with $500 billion of that being represented by payments directly to citizens and $500 billion in loans to ailing businesses.

Trump also directed federal agencies to suspend all foreclosures and evictions until the end of April as the full economic toll of the crisis began to set in around the world.