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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:

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

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

Immigration agency asks for emergency funds, will raise fees

WASHINGTON — The U.S. government agency that processes citizenship applications and work visas is running out of money because of the COVID-19 pandemic and says it needs to raise its fees and receive emergency funding from Congress to stay afloat.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services is typically funded through the fees it charges people seeking to live or work in the country. But the agency said Sunday that it has seen a dramatic decrease in applications as a result of the pandemic.

Much of the U.S. immigration system has ground to a halt. Nearly all visa processing by the State Department is suspended and travel to the U.S. has been restricted. In April, President Donald Trump announced a 60-day pause on the issuance of green cards to limit competition for jobs in a U.S. economy wrecked by the coronavirus.

USCIS said in a statement that it expects its revenue will drop by about 61% through the end of the year.

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.”

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.

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.

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.

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."