Global COVID-19 cases reach 5 million

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Global cases of COVID-19 topped 5 million early Thursday, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

By Thursday night that number had passed 5.1 million, according to the university.

More than 332,900 people have died worldwide, according to that count. In the United States, more than 1.5 million cases have been reported and more than 95,000 deaths, according to NBC News' count.

President Donald Trump visited a Ford plant in Michigan on Thursday, and while he did wear a mask at one point, when he appeared before the media he did not. " I didn’t want to press to get the pleasure of seeing it,” Trump told reporters. The president also said he wasn't wearing one because he was making a speech.

Trump also tweeted that he will be ordering flags on federal buildings and monuments nationwide to fly at half-staff over the Memorial Day weekend to honor those who have died of COVID-19.

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 to May 22 coronavirus updates.

Missouri governor not only allows graduation, but keynotes

O’FALLON, Mo. — In a year when many states are prohibiting in-person graduation ceremonies due to the coronavirus, Missouri Gov. Mike Parson is not only allowing them, but also spoke at one.

The Republican governor had a special connection to the indoor ceremony Thursday night at Sparta High School in southwestern Missouri: His granddaughter was among the 42 seniors receiving diplomas.

Missouri reopened after the pandemic-forced shutdown on May 4, and Parson was among the few governors to give the go-ahead for large-scale gatherings, including graduation ceremonies.

Social distancing requirements remain in place, though, and most of Missouri’s 555 public school districts and public charter schools are choosing other options such as drive-thru graduations or virtual ceremonies. Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education spokeswoman Mallory McGowin said some districts are postponing graduation until the summer in hopes of having in-person ceremonies then.

Sparta is in Christian County, where 20 people have tested positive for the coronavirus, according to the state health department. 

Each graduating senior was allowed to invite up to 10 people, meaning the approximately 2,000-seat gym was, at most, at around 25 percent capacity. Families sat together, but were spaced throughout the gym from others. The school board chairman handed diplomas to students as they came forward. Masks or other face protection were not required.

Small businesses struggle as many big retailers see revenue surge, online sales grow

Trump to lower flags over Memorial Day weekend to honor coronavirus victims

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump said in a tweet on Thursday that he will be ordering flags on federal buildings and monuments nationwide to fly at half-staff over the Memorial Day weekend to honor those who have died from the novel coronavirus.

Trump also said the flags will be lowered at half-staff on Memorial Day to honor veterans.

"I will be lowering the flags on all Federal Buildings and National Monuments to half-staff over the next three days in memory of the Americans we have lost to the CoronaVirus," he said in a tweet. "On Monday, the flags will be at half-staff in honor of the men and women in our Military who have made the Ultimate Sacrifice for our Nation."

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COVID-19 deaths in Los Angeles County pass 2,000

The number of deaths linked to the coronavirus illness COVID-19 has passed 2,000 in Los Angeles County. 

"This is a very sad milestone for us," said Barbara Ferrer, the county public health director.

Health authorities announced 46 new deaths Thursday, bringing the confirmed total to 2,016. The health department said that 92 percent of those who died had underlying health conditions.

The county health department also announced 1,204 new confirmed coronavirus cases, bringing the total in the county to 42,037.

In all of California, there have been at least 86,197 confirmed cases and 3,542 deaths, according to the state health department.

Missouri principal sent off to retirement with surprise drive-by parade

Central Elementary Principal Stacey King receiving a surprise social distancing parade for her retirement on Tuesday, May 19.Francis Howell School District

Missouri principal Stacey King didn't get the usual send-off to mark her retirement, but retiring during a pandemic isn't exactly typical. 

The staff at Central Elementary school helped celebrate King's career Tuesday with a drive-by parade in Saint Charles, Missouri. After nearly 15 years in the role, her last official day will be June 30, but Tuesday was the final day of classes. 

“It’s not how we typically do send-offs. They were very creative,” King, 51, told NBC News.

"The administrators were here working, social distancing in our offices, but staff was working remotely, and so they were able to drive up and surprise me with the parade while still keeping distances,” she said.

Like many, the global pandemic has brought its share of challenges for King, but she said she has focused on the silver linings like learning new technology to work remotely.

"Wrapping up my career and knowing that I had no idea when I walked out of the building on March 12 that, that was going to be the last time I saw my kids, and so, it is hard,” King said.

“Knowing I won’t be here when they come back in the fall to put my eyes on them and to know that they are okay, I know that they will be in great hands, but that’s just hard,” she said.

Eighth Amazon warehouse worker dies

Another Amazon warehouse worker has died from COVID-19, bringing the total known deaths to eight employees, the company said Thursday.

The female employee worked in packing at the fulfillment center outside Cleveland in North Randall, Ohio, known as CLE2, Amazon said. She had been with the company since November 2018.

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Financial help en route for struggling New York City transit system, Trump says

More federal financial help is on the way for New York City's transit system, which has been reeling from losses caused by the coronavirus pandemic.  

President Donald Trump announced on Twitter Thursday night that about $300 million was heading to New York's Metropolitan Transit Authority, part of the $3.9 billion that's been allocated for New York under coronavirus stimulus legislation passed by Congress.

The MTA runs the state's trains, subways and buses. With the payment, the agency will have received over $2 billion in federal funding to date, Trump said. 

"This is critical to keeping essential personnel moving and aiding metro NYC in recovery," the president tweeted. 

Gov. Andrew Cuomo told reporters last week that the agency "desperately needs funding because the ridership is way down" and credited Trump for expediting the payments to his former home state. The "president cut red tape," Cuomo said. 

Early release of Cohen and Manafort shows how unfair prison system is, experts say

Brian Stauffer / for NBC News

Michael Cohen is just the latest well-connected federal prisoner to be sent home early because of the coronavirus, even though he has served only a third of his sentence — well shy of the 50 percent threshold federal officials often cite in denying requests for early release.

By contrast, prisoners like Eddie Brown, an Oklahoma man who has served a bigger portion of his sentence than Cohen and also cites health problems, remain behind bars, raising questions about the Bureau of Prisons' opaque process and its fairness.

New data show that Cohen, along with former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, released last week, are among the relatively few federal prisoners to win early release in the seven weeks since Attorney General William Barr cited the pandemic in ordering more federal prisoners to be let out.

During that time, the number of people in home confinement increased by only 2,578, about 1.5 percent of the nearly 171,000 people in federal prisons and halfway houses when Barr issued his memo.

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Nursing home executive to Pence: Enough photo ops

The head of an association representing more than 5,000 non-profit senior living facilities sent a letter to Vice President Mike Pence Thursday asking that he stop doing what she characterized as “photo op” deliveries of personal protective gear to nursing homes.

“While it may not be your intention, these photo-ops send a false impression that nursing homes and other aging services providers are getting what they need. That is nowhere close to the truth,” wrote Katie Smith Sloan, CEO of LeadingAge.

Pence delivered PPE to a nursing home in Orlando yesterday in front of reporters and also to a facility in Northern Virginia on May 7. In late April, the White House announced FEMA would deliver one week’s worth of PPE to every nursing home in the U.S.; after criticism FEMA increased the size of the shipments to a 14-day supply.

NBC News previously reported that one of the first shipments went to a facility in Saratoga Springs, New York with no coronavirus cases.

Trump spotted wearing mask during Ford tour, but refuses to wear it in front of press cameras

President Donald Trump has a face covering with the presidential seal on it, but refused to wear it on the public part of his tour of a Ford plant in Michigan on Thursday despite factory policy.

Trump was photographed wearing a mask at the plant, and a source familiar with the matter confirmed the authenticity of that photo. The president was given a mask by Ford.

President Donald Trump wears a mask during his tour of the Ford Rawsonville Components Plant that is manufacturing ventilators, masks and other medical supplies in Ypsilanti, Michigan on May 21, 2020.

“I wore one in the back area but I didn’t want to press to get the pleasure of seeing it,” Trump told reporters during an appearance at a Ford plant in Ypsilanti that's making ventilators to combat the coronavirus.

He then displayed the black face covering, which has the presidential seal in the corner. "I think I look better in the mask," Trump said, before offering a different explanation for why he wasn't wearing it. "I'm making a speech so I won't have it on now," he said.

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