Obama slams politicians for COVID-19 response as U.S. death toll surpasses 90,000

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Image: Phoebe Seip, a graduating student at Torrey Pines High School, and her sisters watch Barack Obama deliver a virtual commencement address in San Diego, Calif., on May 16, 2020.
Phoebe Seip, a graduating student at Torrey Pines High School, and her sisters watch Barack Obama deliver a virtual commencement address in San Diego, California, on May 16, 2020.Bing Guan / Reuters

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Former President Barack Obama slammed U.S. politicians for their handling of the coronavirus pandemic at a virtual commencement address to graduating high school seniors across the country on Saturday night.

"Doing what feels good, what’s convenient, what’s easy, that’s how little kids think. Unfortunately a lot of so-called grownups, including some with fancy titles, important jobs, still think that way, which is why things are so screwed up," he said without naming President Donald Trump or his administration.

He was speaking at the televised "Graduate Together: America Honors the High School Class of 2020" event hosted by NBA star LeBron James that included appearances from the Jonas Brothers, Megan Rapinoe, Pharrell Williams, Maren Morris and Malala Yousafzai.

At another virtual commencement ceremony for graduates of historically black colleges and universities, Obama offered his most public and direct criticism yet of the Trump administration's handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

"More than anything, this pandemic has fully, finally torn back the curtain on the idea that so many of the folks in charge know what they’re doing," he said. "A lot of them aren’t even pretending to be in charge."

His comments came a day before the U.S. death toll surpassed 90,000, with almost 1.5 million cases recorded, according to an NBC News tally. Globally, 311,827 have died and there have been more than 4.6 million infections, according to John Hopkins University data.

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Sri Lanka reimposes weekend curfew

Sri Lanka reimposed a strict 24-hour curfew this weekend even though the government has begun easing the two-month coronavirus lockdown.

Private businesses and government offices reopened last week. However, on midnight Saturday, authorities again slapped the curfew in an apparent move to restrict people’s movements during the weekend.

The curfew is expected to be relaxed on Monday morning. Health authorities say COVID-19 is under control in the Indian Ocean island nation. A total of 960 cases have been confirmed, along with nine deaths.

New York City hits goal of 20,000 tests per day

New York City hit its goal of 20,000 coronavirus tests per day one week early after partnering with walk-in clinic CityMD. 

Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Sunday that the city was working with CityMD to add another 6,000 tests per day across the 123 urgent care centers across the city. CityMD will also cover the cost of testing for the uninsured, the mayor said. 

"This now puts us ahead of our goal. We had wanted to get the capacity for 20,000 tests per day by Monday, May 25th," de Blasio said. "I can tell you we have hit that goal a week early." 

The city also hopes to grow an "army of tracers" as 500 contract tracers are set to begin field training after getting instruction from John Hopkins University, de Blasio said. 

De Blasio also insisted that beaches will not open for Memorial Day weekend, the traditional start of summer. New York City remains under strict social distancing guidelines, although other parts of the state have begun to reopen. 

"We don't know the day yet when in the future we might be able to reopen the beaches," de Blasio said. "We will have lifeguards trained and ready, we will be ready for that eventuality. But we are not there yet." 

The week the White House was masked

White House staff and guests, wearing face masks, wait for a news conference with President Donald Trump about the coronavirus in the Rose Garden of the White House earlier this month.Doug Mills / The New York Times via Redux Pictures

It was a jarring sight in the Rose Garden this past Monday as one top administration official after another — senior adviser Jared Kushner, Health and Human Services secretary Alex Azar, press secretary Kayleigh McEnany — all walked to their seats wearing crisp medical masks.

Just that morning I had watched a string of senior aides arrive at the West Wing without any type of face covering, even after two staffers were diagnosed with the coronavirus days earlier. I had been surprised — the White House is a cramped place to work. Despite the expansive feeling on shows like West Wing and Veep, there are narrow hallways and stairwells and desks tightly packed together. It isn’t conducive to maintaining six feet of distance from others.

But after the White House Management Office sent a memo Monday afternoon requiring that everyone entering and moving about the West Wing cover their faces, staffers headed en masse to the medical office to pick one up, a White House aide told me.

Read more here.

South Korea sees decrease in new cases relating to nightclub outbreak

A man wearing a face mask walks in the popular nightlife district of Itaewon in Seoul earlier this month.JUNG YEON-JE / AFP - Getty Images

South Korea reported 13 new virus cases on Sunday, raising hopes that a new outbreak linked to nightclubs in Seoul may be waning.

These figures brought the national total to 11,050, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. No new deaths were recorded on Sunday leaving the death toll at 262.

Health authorities have expressed worries about new cases from Itaewon district-related infections over the weekend and have conducted rigorous contact tracing followed and testing to contain the infection from spreading.

After many weeks of a slowdown of new cases, South Korea’s daily jumps associated with the nightclubs marked an average of about 30 for several days. But starting Saturday, the country saw the beginning of a decrease with 19 reported cases.

Knock-knock no more: Doors are being redesigned amid COVID-19

3D-printing design and manufacturing firm Materialise is encouraging 3D-printer owners to print their own plastic door handles that allow people to open doors with a forearm instead of a hand.Materialise

Doors carry disease. A contaminated doorknob can infect half an office in just a few hours. But you can't exactly socially distance from a door.

As some companies plan a return to the office, entrepreneurs, engineers and architects are confronting a design challenge: how to keep the public safe from shared items that require constant decontamination. Grabbing a doorknob is almost as unconscious as touching your face — and both are now considered health risks.

"I’m not seeing my family, but I’m touching things that a thousand other people have, too," said Ziad Salah, 26, from Edmonton, Alberta. His wife, Maram, is pregnant with their first child and both have older parents. "It’s not enough to socially distance from being around people. You have to socially distance from things that are publicly shared, too."

Read the rest here.

UN warns of vulnerability of LGBTI community during outbreak

The United Nations warned of the increasing vulnerability of the LGBTI community during the pandemic on Sunday — the International Day against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia.

The day is observed to commemorate the World Health Organization’s decision to remove homosexuality from the international list of diseases on that date in 1990, according to the Associated Press.

The U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said that the day comes at a time of challenge when the world needs to protect the LGBTI community.

Guterres said in a statement many LGBTI people who already face bias, attacks and murder “are experiencing heightened stigma as a result of the virus, as well as new obstacles when seeking health care.”

Pakistan resumes domestic flights, insists on masks and empty seats

Pakistan resumed domestic flights between major cities for the first time in nearly two months on Saturday with the requirement that face masks be worn and vacant seats left between passengers, officials said. International flights will remain suspended till May 31.

Domestic and chartered flight operations will require disinfection of the aircraft prior to boarding, at least one vacant seat between the passengers and compulsory wearing of masks and use of hand sanitizers. No food and beverages will be allowed during domestic flights, the statement added.

Prime Minister Imran Khan on Friday said that the country could not afford an indefinite lockdown and the nation would have to learn to live with the pandemic. Pakistan has reported over 38,000 cases of infection from the virus, and 834 deaths.

People visit a market after the government relaxed the weeks-long lockdown that was enforced to curb the spread of the coronavirus, in Lahore, Pakistan last week.K.M. Chaudary / AP

China reopens some schools, revives flights

China reported five new cases of the virus on Sunday, as the commercial hub of Shanghai announced the reopening of some schools and airlines revived flights.

In Shanghai, students retain the option of continuing to follow classes online rather than facing virus testing and social distancing measures at schools. Meanwhile, the number of domestic flights has returned to 60 percent of pre-outbreak levels, exceeding 10,000 per day for the first time since Feb. 1, the country’s civil aviation regulator reported Sunday.

No new deaths have been reported for the past month, although the province of Jilin — which has recently seen a small spike in cases — added one fatality retroactively, bringing China’s death toll to 4,634. 82,947 cases have been recorded since the outbreak was first detected in the city of Wuhan late last year. 78,227 cases are recorded as recovered. 

This comes as the last COVID-19-designated hospital in Wuhan restored normal operation on Saturday after nearly four months of treating the coronavirus, according to a state media report.

Brazil confirms more cases than Italy and Spain

Brazil's confirmed cases of the coronavirus rose on Saturday past those of Spain and Italy — which was once the epicenter of the pandemic — making Brazil's outbreak the fourth largest in the world, according to official figures.

Brazil's Health Ministry registered 14,919 new confirmed cases in the prior 24 hours, taking the total to 233,142, behind only the U.S., Russia and the U.K. Brazil has done just a fraction of the testing seen in those three countries.

Jair Bolsonaro wears a protective mask during the National Flag Raising ceremony in Brasilia, Brazil earlier this week.Andre Borges / Bloomberg via Getty Images

The global distinction is likely to pile pressure on Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro, who lost his second health minister in a month on Friday as he defies public health experts and calls for widespread use of unproven drugs.

Bolsonaro has been fiercely critical of the orders by many of Brazil's state governors for strict social isolation and quarantine to combat the spread of the virus, including the closure of schools, shops and restaurants. The president argues that the toll on the economy is becoming unbearable and businesses must be allowed to reopen as soon as possible.