U.S. death toll nears 100,000

Here are the latest coronavirus updates from around the world.
Image: A man wears a protective mask as he walks on Wall Street during the coronavirus outbreak in New York
A man wears a protective mask as he walks on Wall Street during the coronavirus outbreak in New York on March 13, 2020.Lucas Jackson / Reuters file

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The number of U.S. coronavirus deaths approached 100,000, with more than 99,600 deaths recorded as of early Wednesday, according to NBC News' count. The U.S. leads the world in both deaths and confirmed cases, with 1.69 million infections.

The National Hockey League on Tuesday announced a plan to resume its suspended season by moving directly into playoffs, but details, including which "hub cities" would host the contests, remained up in the air.

Former vice president and presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden called President Donald Trump "an absolute fool to talk that way" after Trump criticized Biden for wearing a mask during a Memorial Day remembrance.

"Every leading doc in the world is saying we should wear a mask when you're in a crowd," Biden said in a CNN interview.

Trump, who did not wear a mask during Memorial Day services, retweeted Fox News commentator Brit Hume's Monday night tweet criticizing Biden. Trump denied mocking Biden at a Tuesday news conference.

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 to May 27 coronavirus news.

Wuhan lab director praises staff, disputes 'rumors' over virus origin

The director of the Wuhan National Biosecurity Laboratory hailed his staff’s commitment to the global fight against the coronavirus despite mounting pressure amid ongoing scrutiny from the United States over coronavirus' origin.

"All working staff at the institute were involved in the storm of rumors, bearing huge pressure. Meanwhile, we asked our staff members to endure the pressure, adjust their mindsets and fully devote themselves to the race against the virus," said lab director Yuan Zhiming, in an interview with China Global Television Network.

Zhiming also said the lab had always operated “in compliance with regulations and laws” and that safety standards were in line with those in the U.S. and Europe. He stressed that there had never been “accidents of pathogen leaks or human infections.”

Rare snow leopards seen prowling near Kazakh city during lockdown

Several snow leopards, including a mother and her cub, have been spotted near the Kazakh city of Almaty wandering through a usually popular hiking destination that is now mostly off limits due to the coronavirus lockdown.

There are only around 150 snow leopards left in Kazakhstan, out of a global population of less than 10,000 across Central and South Asia. Classified as vulnerable by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, the big cats are rarely seen in the wild, let alone within city limits.

However, in the past few weeks at least three animals — a lone male and a female with a cub — were caught on film by a motion sensor-equipped camera trap installed near the Big Almaty Lake by an NGO set up to protect the species. Zoologist Alexey Grachyov, who works with the Snow Leopard Foundation, said that in the mountains near Almaty there are only around 20 of the animals left, making the sighting extremely rare.

Bethlehem's Church of the Nativity reopens to limited number of visitors

The head of the Greek Orthodox Church in Bethlehem reopens the Church of the Nativity as Palestinians ease coronavirus restrictions on Tuesday.Mussa Qawasma / Reuters

Bethlehem's Church of the Nativity, the traditional birthplace of Jesus, reopened to worshipers and tourists on Tuesday as Palestinian authorities eased coronavirus restrictions in the West Bank.

Amid lingering pandemic concerns, the church is capping access to 50 people at a time and requires that they be free of fever and wear protective masks. It had been shuttered since March 5, in a blow to Bethlehem's tourism industry.

There have been 423 recorded coronavirus cases and two deaths in the West Bank. On Monday, Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said mosques, churches and businesses would reopen on Tuesday in an easing of anti-pandemic curbs, given the slow pace of infections, coinciding with the last day of the Eid El-Fitr holiday marking the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.

Russia reports another day of record fatalities

Russian authorities reported a record 174 COVID-19 fatalities on Tuesday as cases continued to climb at a flat rate nationwide. There were more than 360,000 reported infections in the country.  

Russia remains in a precarious point in its outbreak as new cases nationwide have hovered around 9,000 a day for 10 days. However, the country also set a new record for reported recoveries, with over 12,000 reported in the past 24 hours. This is nearly double the reported number of recoveries on Monday.

The epicenter of the outbreak continues to shift out of Moscow, which had accounted for half of daily new cases for much of the outbreak, and into the rest of the country — which now makes up around two thirds of daily confirmed cases. Despite this trend, Moscow remains under the strictest lockdown nation-wide, while regions in Russia’s far east and elsewhere bean lifting closures on hair salons and other businesses on Tuesday.

Australia won't open its borders 'anytime soon,' says PM

Australia’s Prime Minister said on Tuesday that he will not open the country’s borders “anytime soon,” but would continue to discuss the possibility of establishing a safe travel zone with neighboring New Zealand.

Australians may well be able to travel to New Zealand before they are allowed to fly interstate if state leaders choose to keep their borders closed amid the coronavirus pandemic, he added.

Queensland and Western Australia have closed their borders to slow the coronavirus spread, while all other states, except for Victoria, New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory, have imposed a mandatory 14-day quarantine period.

Saudi Arabia to amend coronavirus curfew, allow domestic travel

Saudis shop at the Panorama Mall in the capital Riyadh on Friday ahead of the Eid al-Fitr festiva, that marks the end of the fasting month of Ramadan.Fayez Nureldine / AFP - Getty Images

Saudi Arabia will amend its curfew times and lift a ban on domestic travel, with the exception of the holy city of Mecca starting Thursday, its state news agency reported in a statement on Tuesday.

From May 31, holding prayers in mosques across the kingdom, except in Mecca, will be allowed, and both government and private sector employees we will be able to return to work, the statement added. Social gatherings will be limited to 50 people.

The government is hoping to lift curfew times entirely in all cities, excluding Mecca, on June 21, but has not ruled out a return to strict lockdown measures if infection numbers spike.

Saluting veterans and coronavirus frontline workers on Memorial Day

On Memorial Day we honor the fallen heroes who fought for our freedoms. This Memorial Day we also salute the men and women in uniform and the first responders working together on the frontlines to fight COVID-19.

Hair salon in North Carolina refuses service to Tyson employees

A hair salon in North Carolina is denying service to employees at a Tyson plant in the area due to the coronavirus outbreak at the facility earlier this month. 

SmartCuts salon posted a sign on the location of their Wilkesboro location that read, “Due to the number of Tyson employees who have tested positive for Covid19, and given the close contact experiences during our services, we are unable to serve Tyson employees. We sincerely apologize for this decision, and we ask for your understanding.” 

The image, which has been widely circulated on social media, has received criticism from employees at the facility who are upset that they are being denied service due to the fact that they were “at work trying to put food on your tables.”

The salon released a statement that said they would begin serving Tyson employees two weeks after their initial opening on May 22nd and added, “With Tyson’s 2,200 employees in a relatively small market, we certainly did not take this decision lightly. We are doing our best to keep our employees and all people who come to our salon safe, and we hope the Tyson employees can understand this position. In order to show our appreciation for these customers, we are offering discounted services after this time period has passed.”

SmartCuts has multiple locations across North Carolina and Tennessee. 

Inside Brazil field hospital battling coronavirus

Located next to Brazil’s largest stadium, more than 50 people have died at the field hospital in two weeks.

University in Oklahoma adds 'back-up faculty' to prepare for in-person fall classes

An Oklahoma university with roughly 4,000 students annually has proposed a "back-up faculty of record" as a way to support professors in case any become absent due to reasons relating to the coronavirus pandemic.

"Before the semester begins, a designated faculty member will be included in the learning management system for each course should an instructor be unavailable to teach for any reason related to COVID-19," according to the University of Tulsa in a statement obtained by NBC News.

There is still the option for students and instructors who prefer virtual learning over in-person classes.

"The plan also covers education delivery to accommodate students and instructors who cannot or do not feel comfortable attending in-person classes," according to the statement.

Oklahoma has already begun to reopen in three phases. The state has a total of 6,090 coronavirus cases and the city of Tulsa has 926 cases. Overall, the state has had 313 deaths from the virus.