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.

Here's what to know about the coronavirus, plus a timeline of the most critical moments:

Download the NBC News app for latest updates on the coronavirus outbreak.

This live coverage has ended. Continue reading May 18 coronavirus news.

Doctors couldn't help these COVID-19 patients with their endless symptoms. So they turned to one another.

Jennifer English was sick, scared and confused. For two weeks, the Oregon City, Oregon, single mother had had no sense of taste, a fever that reached 102.5 degrees and an uncomfortable tightness in her chest.

English, 46, who helps manage a restaurant and bar, suspected she had the coronavirus and worried her health might worsen, leaving her incapable of caring for her son. But in phone calls and virtual doctor appointments, physicians downplayed her concerns.

When she then started experiencing dizziness so overpowering that it caused her to collapse on her bathroom floor in mid-April, English went to an emergency room and demanded a test for COVID-19. An ER physician gave her the test, but told her she had likely had a panic attack — even though English has no history of anxiety — and sent her home.

Read the whole story here.

New Hampshire postal worker gives Dunkin’ Donuts gift cards to 2020 graduating seniors along his route

One of the more than 25 gift cards Joshua Crowell has distributed.Courtesy of Joshua Crowell

A New Hampshire postal worker wanted to help celebrate members of the class of 2020 living on his route after he realized they would be unable to enjoy traditional graduation celebrations due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Joshua Crowell, came up with the idea while working a route in Bow, New Hampshire after he saw multiple signs on front lawns saying “a 2020 high school graduate lives here” and realized he wanted to “try to do something for them.”

Crowell told NBC News he decided to purchase graduation cards for the students and then decided he wanted to do “a little bit more,” so he went to a local Dunkin Donuts and bought a bunch of $5 gift cards and put them inside the cards along with a personal “congratulations” message.

Crowell said in response to the gifts, many of the students have written him personal thank you notes explaining how much the gesture meant to them.

He said at this point he believes he has given out at least 25 gift cards but added, “I always keep extras in my lunchbox. If I have to be on a different route, if I see a sign, I throw a stamp on it and put it in the box and go about my route.”

New Zealand's Ardern turned away from cafe under virus rules

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern speaks during her post-Cabinet media update at Parliament in April in Wellington, New Zealand.Mark Mitchell / Pool via Getty Images

Hailed for her leadership during the coronavirus pandemic, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and her partner were turned away from a cafe on Saturday because it was too full under the physical distancing guidelines. Ardern's government relaxed many social distancing rules on Thursday, reopening cafes, cinemas and malls after two months of some of the tightest virus restrictions in the world.

Ardern and Clarke Gayford walked for a brunch to a cafe in the country's capital, Wellington, where they were initially told it was too full, New Zealand media reported. An employee ran after them a few minutes later when a table became free and the couple went back.

The prime minister's press service said that waiting at a cafe is likely with the virus restrictions. "The PM says she just waits like everyone else," the public Television New Zealand cited Ardern's press service as saying.

New Zealand has managed to contain the pandemic before it strained the public health system. There have been 1,149 confirmed cases as of Sunday and 21 reported deaths, according to data from the health ministry.

Trump calls Obama 'grossly incompetent' after coronavirus criticism

President Donald Trump on Sunday lashed out at former President Barack Obama, calling him "grossly incompetent" after Obama on Saturday criticized "the folks in charge" of the coronavirus response.

Asked about Obama's remarks by reporters after returning to the White House from Camp David, Trump said he had not seen Obama's comments but added: "Look, he was an incompetent president, that's all I can say. Grossly incompetent." 

He later tweeted:

On Saturday, Obama offered some of his most pointed criticism of the Trump administration's handling of the coronavirus outbreak, which has killed nearly 90,000 people in the U.S., according to an NBC News tracker. Obama did not reference Trump by name.

“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,” Obama said in the address, which was streamed online. “A lot of them aren’t even pretending to be in charge.”

“If the world’s going to get better, it’s going to be up to you," he said.

Obama's address was delivered to 27,000 students at 78 historically black colleges and universities in a two-hour event called "Show Me Your Walk H.B.C.U. Edition."

It's hard to flee from your domestic abuser during a lockdown

If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline by calling 1-800-799-SAFE (7233), visiting www.thehotline.org or texting LOVEIS to 22522.

When the stay-at-home order went into effect in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, C. realized her plan to leave her abusive husband had just been sped up. Her two teenage children would suddenly be home to witness the violence.

"My kids were home from school and they were going to see this," said C., who asked that her full name not be used to protect her privacy. "They knew how controlling he was, but knowing that they would be home — we didn't make it two weeks into our stay-at-home order."

The family walked on eggshells during the order, she said. "What I wore to the way I did my hair — anything would set him off."

Read the whole story here.

Michigan priest goes viral after using holy water squirt gun during drive-thru service

A Michigan priest who used a water gun to bless parishioners with holy water has gone viral and been given meme-treatment by the internet. 

Father Tim Pelc of the St. Ambrose Parish in Grosse Pointe Park, Michigan hosted a drive-thru church service for Holy Saturday. In order to comply with social distancing guidelines, the priest decided to use a squirt gun full of holy water, according to a Facebook post from the church

The priest’s ingenuity has struck a chord on the internet, with the photo garnering more than 120,000 retweets and more than 500,000 likes on Twitter. It has even made its way to Reddit’s photoshop battle page, where users superimposed Father Pelc onto a photo of firefighters battling a fire and onto a movie poster dubbed “The Good, The Bad and The Holy Spirit,” a play on “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” starring Clint Eastwood.

“It’s an internet law: once a post or photo about you goes viral, you must end up in a meme,” St. Ambrose Parish wrote on its Facebook page. “Now it’s happened to Fr. Tim, who wowed the world with his unique holy water squirt gun, blessing food on Holy Saturday."

Gov. Andrew Cuomo gets coronavirus test during press conference

Gov. Andrew Cuomo was given a coronavirus test live during his daily press briefing on Sunday to demonstrate the ease with which the test is given. 

Cuomo was encouraging New Yorkers who think they might have COVID-19 — the disease caused by the novel coronavirus — to go online, find a nearby testing location and schedule an appointment.

"It is a fast and easy thing to do," Cuomo said. 

He added that tests are now available but that not enough people in the state of New York were being tested. Cuomo said that when he asks people why they had yet to be tested, they were reluctant for a drove of reasons. 

"There is a general proclivity where, and I don't mean any disrespect to the medical professionals — my sister is a doctor — but some people just don't like to go to the doctor and don't like to get tested," Cuomo said.

"I am not good at this, but this test is not an invasive test, there's no pain to this test there is nothing about this test that should intimidate people from not taking this test. ... It is so fast and so easy that even a governor can take this test. That's how fast and easy it is," Cuomo said.

He wanted to show anyone doubting him, he said, how fast and easy it is to take a coronavirus test. 

Cuomo then stood to introduce Dr. Elizabeth Dufort, a pediatric infectious disease specialist from Albany, New York, who administered the test to him as he stood up from his seat. 

Dufort told Cuomo to lift his head and close his eyes, which he questioned, telling viewers, "You can question the doctor."

Dufort responded that it was for comfort and because Cuomo might tear up. 

Then, Dufort inserted a swap into one of Cuomo's nostril for approximately five seconds. 

"That's it? That's it. Nothing else? Told you," Cuomo said, almost shrugging his shoulders as he thanked the doctor. 

Las Vegas airport installs PPE vending machines

McCarran International Airport announced Thursday that it has installed personal protective equipment vending machines in Terminal 1 and Terminal 3.

The Las Vegas airport said that it is the first airport to install PPE vending machines, which sell an array of products from hand sanitizer to tissues to KN95 masks. Prices range from $3.50 for a pack of tissues to $14.50 for a reusable cloth mask. 

The installation of the vending machines come as travel is down all over the world due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The amount of passengers departing and arriving at McCarran Airport was down more than 50% in March 2020 as compared with March of last year, the airport said in a news release.

Martin Shkreli denied release from prison over coronavirus fears

Martin Shkreli, the former pharmaceutical executive who became known as "pharma bro," was denied a compassionate release request Saturday to leave prison early

Shkreli was found guilty of securities fraud in 2017 for defrauding investors but is best known for his smug online persona and drug price-gouging. The former executive asked to be released from his 84-month sentence early because of the coronavirus pandemic, even claiming that he could help develop a cure. 

A judge denied his request, claiming that an early release would go against sentencing goals given the sophisticated nature of Shkreli's crime, according to the court filing.

"Defendant is a healthy, 37 year old man with no recent history of preexisting medical conditions that place him at higher risk for COVID-19 and its potentially life-threatening adverse effects, and he is confined in a facility where there are currently no cases of COVID-19," the judge's motion said. 

The motion also included a Probation Department response that said Shkreli's insistence that he is able to find a cure to COVID-19 is an example of the "delusional self-aggrandizing behavior” that preceded his crimes. 

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."