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

Here are the latest coronavirus updates from around the world.
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

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:

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

867d ago / 11:53 PM UTC

Economy won't recover 'until people feel confident that they are safe,' says Fed Chairman Powell

The U.S. economy won't recover "until people feel confident that they are safe," Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said Sunday, in an interview with CBS News's "60 Minutes." 

“The sooner we get the virus under control, the sooner businesses can reopen,” he said. 

While Powell anticipates that economic conditions could improve in the second half of the year without a vaccine, he believes that "for the economy to fully recover, people will have to be fully confident, and that may have to await the arrival of a vaccine.”

Unemployment is likely to peak between 20 and 25 percent, and GDP is likely to shrink by more than 20 percent, Powell said.

The central bank head also admitted he is worried about what could happen to the economy if the pandemic were to worsen again. 

“The big thing we have to avoid during that period is a second wave of the virus,” Chair Powell told CBS. “That would be very damaging, to have to reintroduce the measures and slow the economy down again. That would be quite damaging to the economy and also to public confidence.”

867d ago / 11:39 PM UTC

Hollywood scrambles to meet demand for new shows, movies

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Major television networks started trotting out their fall lineups this month in atypical fashion. Conspicuously missing from the announcements are the star-studded parties at big venues like Radio City Music Hall, events that had come to define the showcase season in a pre-coronavirus world.

Instead, advertisers this year will be treated to significantly less fanfare as Disney, ABC, NBC and CBS hold virtual conferences to announce their fall shows. At first glance, the lineups that have been announced appear full, with both renewed and new series slated to air later this year.

Whether those materialize, however, remains a big question as the coronavirus pandemic continues to ground productions in Los Angeles and New York, both of which have extended their stay-at-home orders.

Read the full story.

867d ago / 9:59 PM UTC

Canadian Air Force jet celebrating front-line workers crashes into home

A Canadian air force jet celebrating front-line workers in the coronavirus pandemic crashed into a British Columbia home on Sunday, authorities and witnesses said.

The Royal Canadian Air Force said in a statement that the incident occurred in Kamloops, northeast of Vancouver. It wasn’t immediately clear if anyone was injured or killed in the crash or what caused it.

The flight was part of “Operation Inspiration,” a nationwide mission aimed at saluting first responders and other essential workers. The Snowbirds are a military acrobatics squadron based in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan.

Read the full story.

867d ago / 9:47 PM UTC

Number of coronavirus deaths in U.S. surpasses 90,000

The number of people in the United States who have died from the coronavirus rose to 90,135 on Sunday, according to an NBC News tally.

Nearly 1.5 million people have contracted the virus, the count shows.

The United States has more recorded more confirmed cases and deaths than any other country.

Robert Redfield, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said Friday that 12 different forecasting models used by the agency predicted the number of deaths in the United States will surpass 100,000 by June 1.

867d ago / 8:09 PM UTC

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.

867d ago / 7:52 PM UTC

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

Image: One of the more than 25 gift cards Joshua Crowell has distributed.
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.”

867d ago / 7:35 PM UTC

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

Image: New Zealanders Adjust To Life In Lockdown Amid Coronavirus Pandemic
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.

867d ago / 6:32 PM UTC

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."

867d ago / 6:04 PM UTC

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.

868d ago / 5:15 PM UTC

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."

868d ago / 4:55 PM UTC

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. 

868d ago / 3:53 PM UTC

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.

868d ago / 2:39 PM UTC

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. 

868d ago / 2:22 PM UTC

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.

868d ago / 2:18 PM UTC

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." 

868d ago / 1:50 PM UTC

The week the White House was masked

Image: 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 in Washington, Monday, May 11, 2020. (Doug Mills/The New York Times)
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.

868d ago / 1:31 PM UTC

South Korea sees decrease in new cases relating to nightclub outbreak

Image: A man wearing a face mask walks in the popular nightlife district of Itaewon in Seoul on May 10, 2020.
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.

868d ago / 12:48 PM UTC

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

Image: 3D printing design firm Materialise is encouraging 3D printer owners to print their own plastic door handles that allow people to open doors with their forearm.
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.

868d ago / 12:25 PM UTC

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.”

868d ago / 11:25 AM UTC

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.

Image: 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
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
868d ago / 10:02 AM UTC
868d ago / 8:44 AM UTC

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.

868d ago / 8:03 AM UTC

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.

Bolsonaro Stirs New Controversy Allowing Gyms, Salons To Reopen
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.

868d ago / 3:52 AM UTC
868d ago / 3:36 AM UTC

Mexico reports 47,144 cases, 5,045 deaths

MEXICO CITY - Mexico registered 47,144 cases of coronavirus on Saturday, with the country's death toll rising to 5,045, health authorities said.

Mexico has seen a slightly higher death rate from coronavirus than the global average so far due to the widespread presence of pre-existing medical conditions such as diabetes, hypertension and obesity, experts say.

868d ago / 1:40 AM UTC

Obama tells 2020 high school graduates they'll have to grow up fast

Former President Barack Obama gave a virtual commencement address to graduating high school seniors across the country Saturday night during a televised event hosted by NBA star LeBron James.

It was part of a special called "Graduate Together: America Honors the High School Class of 2020" that included appearances by numerous musical stars, celebrities and athletes, including the Jonas Brothers, Megan Rapinoe, Pharrell Williams, Maren Morris and Malala Yousafzai.

The former president expressed pride in the class of 2020, especially because "the world is turned upside down by a global pandemic," he said.

"You’re going to have to grow up faster than some generations," he said.

Read the whole story here.

868d ago / 12:18 AM UTC

New Orleans takes first steps toward reopening

NEW ORLEANS — New Orleans began taking its first steps Saturday toward loosening two months of restrictions on businesses, restaurants and houses of worship.

The city is restricting buildings to 25% of capacity and requiring restaurants, nail salons and other businesses to only take customers by reservation. Malls and retail stores can reopen, but casinos, video poker, live entertainment and bars are still closed.

Officials are still urging people to stay home as much as possible and requiring people to wear masks in public unless exercising.

The coronavirus struck New Orleans so quickly in March there were worries the pandemic would overwhelm the state health system. Hospitalizations have been going down for nearly a month, but officials warned a spike in cases or deaths could lead to putting restrictions back in place.