Health and Science

Obama hits U.S. virus response; Italy plans to roll back lockdown measures

The coverage on this live blog has ended — for up-to-the-minute coverage on the coronavirus, visit the live blog from CNBC's Asia-Pacific and Europe teams.

Governments and officials around the world are easing lockdown measures — allowing for some stores and restaurants to reopen, live sports to restart and cross-border travel to resume. Italy, once the nation hit hardest by the coronavirus pandemic, announced plans on Saturday for a phased reopening. In the U.S., any loosening of restrictions has been largely at the hands of governors and local leaders, leading to a patchwork of different policies. Health officials continue to issue dire warnings about the risk of moving too fast, but the economy's screeching halt comes at a steep price. 

  • Global cases: More than 4.6 million
  • Global deaths: At least 310,180
  • U.S. cases: More than 1.45 million
  • U.S. deaths: At least 88,230

The data above was compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

Obama criticizes U.S. leadership in commencement address

5:28 pm ET — Former President Barack Obama took a jab at the U.S. Covid-19 response in a commencement address given to the country's 78 historically black colleges and universities.

"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 his speech. "A lot of them aren't even pretending to be in charge."

Obama and President Donald Trump have traded barbs over how the pandemic has been handled in the past. On a private call with supporters last week, Obama referred to the Trump administration's handling of the pandemic as a "an absolute chaotic disaster." Trump previously blamed the Obama administration for the lack of coronavirus tests and also tried to pin the lack of a vaccine on his predecessor. —Hannah Miller 

Italy rolls back lockdown measures 

A rider of delivery food Just Eat runs in Piazza Duomo on April 23, 2020 in Milan, Italy.
Pier Marco Tacca

3:45 pm ET — Italy, once the nation hit hardest by the coronavirus pandemic, will begin rolling back lockdown measures this week, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said according to a report from Reuters. 

"We're facing a calculated risk, knowing that the epidemiological curve could rise again," Conte said according to Reuters. 

Shops will reopen as early as Monday, and travel between countries within the European Union will be allowed for Italians starting June 3. People entering Italy will still be asked to quarantine upon arrival. Gyms, swimming pools and sports centers will reopen on May 25. Theaters will reopen on June 15, Reuters reports. —Sara Salinas

German soccer restarts with "ghost games" 

2:30 pm ET — Germany's Bundesliga soccer league resumed games in empty stadiums, what fans are calling "ghost games," according to the Associated Press.

An 81,000-seat arena held just 213 players, coaches and officials for the first game after hiatus; players appeared to keep physical contact to a minimum; and police braced for unruly fans to gather outside, though none did, the AP reports. 

Bundesliga is among the first professional sports leagues to resume live play after a near-global shutdown. —Sara Salinas

The weekly grocery run may never be the same

1:12 pm ET — The coronavirus pandemic is changing the way Americans go grocery shopping — perhaps forever, say experts. Whether it's sneeze-shields and contactless payment at cashier stations or more online shopping and increased purchases of locally sourced goods, how we stock our refrigerators, freezers and pantries looks a lot different than it did just a few months ago.

Food shopping stands ready to change even more, as grocers turn to ever more contact-free automation to get jobs done. Robots are restocking shelves and patrolling store aisles, for example, while newfangled "dark stores" are open only for pick-up of online orders. Some of the changes may fade as the coronavirus does, but others will remain. CNBC's Melissa Repko talks to those in the know— Kenneth Kiesnoski

A grocery store worker wears a mask while working in the meat department of a grocery store as the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues in the Brooklyn borough of New York U.S., May 5, 2020.
Lucas Jackson | Reuters

New York enters early stages of contact tracing

12:48 pm ET — New York's contact tracing program is now underway with hundreds of tracers in the state's regions that have begun reopening.

"Those five regions that reopened — they had to have a certain number of tracers in proportion to their population," New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said at a press briefing Saturday. Contact tracers are required to complete a multi-hour training from Johns Hopkins University. The Cuomo administration wants the contact tracing program to provide important information regarding how the virus is spread, especially regarding at-home transmission. — Hannah Miller

Kroger to provide "thank you" bonuses after ending hazard pay

12:30 pm ET — Kroger said it will give $130 million in new "thank you" bonuses to store workers through mid-June, The Cincinnati Enquirer reports.

The one-time payments will be provided in two installments on May 30 and June 18, according to the report. Eligible full-time workers will receive $400 in total, while part-time employees will receive $200. The grocery retailer's announcement comes days after it said it was ending hazard pay for employees, a decision that garnered criticism from Kroger's union. Hannah Miller

NY reopening horse racing tracks

12: 25 pm ET — New York is opening up horse racing tracks and the Watkins Glen International racetrack without spectators as of June 1, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Saturday. The state will issue guidance in the upcoming weeks on how the tracks will open safely to avoid the spread of the virus.

The reopening is the latest piece of guidance from the governor allowing economic activity to restart without public gatherings. "You want to increase economic activity as much as you can without spiking the infection rate," Cuomo said at a press conference. — Emma Newburger

Jury's still out on summer camps

12:20 pm ET  The Centers for Disease Control said Thursday that summer camps for kids should not reopen without coronavirus screening and control protocols, but at least one health expert says some types of camps could help contain the spread of Covid-19. Former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb says that he'd send his kids to a sleepaway camp because "have the potential to create a protective bubble that is easier to do than at day camps," where kids and workers come and go.

Others disagree. Helene Drobenare, a social worker and the executive director of Camp Young Judaea Sprout Camps in New York, says "nowhere in the world could give that coverage" amid a pandemic. CNBC's Barbara Booth looks at what experts are saying and camp directors are doing as the summer camping season kicks off. — Kenneth Kiesnoski

Cases in Texas rise as state continues reopening progress

11:35 am ET — Texas has seen an uptick in coronavirus cases as it continues its reopening efforts. Back in mid-April, cases rose by about 1,000 per day, but started to increase at a faster pace in May, reaching a new single-day high of about 1,450 on Thursday, CNBC's Jacob Pramuk and John W. Schoen report.

Texas started lifting major restrictions on May 1 when it allowed stores and restaurants to reopen with capacity limitations. — Hannah Miller

Op-Ed: Amazon needs to come clean about its infection statistics

11: 15 am ET — It's past time for Amazon to disclose the number of its employees who have been infected or killed by coronavirus, and declining to share that information disrespects the very workers who are putting their lives on the line to keep the retail giant's warehouses running, CNBC's Steve Kovach writes in a new op-ed

At least seven Amazon employees have died from Covid-19. Today, Amazon should make its workforce's infection and death data public and allow its employees to make informed decisions about their own risk.

"Over the last few months, we've called these workers heroes. … They're working in crowded buildings, behind checkout counters shielded with plexiglass and in hotspots like New York City where the virus continues to spread and kill hundreds of people per day. … We're asking them to do it all without a clear picture of just how dangerous the work actually is." — Elisabeth Butler Cordova 

A man wearing a face mask holds a box of the American electronic commerce company Amazon in Central district, Hong Kong.
Miguel Candela | SOPA Images | Getty Images

The trophy for worst quarantine goes to...

10:50 am ET — Two climate scientists who set off in August to the Arctic Circle to study the impact of climate change are now stranded there indefinitely, because of the coronavirus lockdown, NBC News reports. 

Sunniva Sorby, 59, and Hilde Fålulm Strøm, 52, co-founders of the Hearts in the Ice polar education campaign, told NBC that their several decades of research experience is "reassuring" and allows them to "navigate the challenges of storms, aggressive polar bears and endless hours of darkness."

The virus has postponed vital climate research and data collection worldwide, and scientists fear a long-term hit to their research budgets.

The Arctic explorers, who have been collecting weather and wildlife data as well as motoring clouds and sea ice, said the silver lining of being stranded is that they can continue working even as other research is on hold. — Emma Newburger

Laid off thanks to Covid-19? How to get help with rent, utilities and more

10:40 am ET — Unemployed thanks to Covid-19, whether you're sick or not? Worried about how you're going to make ends meet? You've probably already gotten a federal stimulus check, or soon will, but you should know that there are other types of economic help out there.

CNBC's Jill Cornfield takes a look at the range of aid available, from two weeks of paid leave — at full pay — to help with utility bills and rent and some extra time to file your 2019 tax return. — Kenneth Kiesnoski

New downturn gives a one-two punch for older Americans

10:30 am ET — Coronavirus has sparked a new recession that, like previous downturns, will probably hit older Americans hardest. The Great Recession had already made retirement more difficult, forcing many seniors to stay in the workforce long after they reached 65. Now that Granny's likely been laid off from her shift at the bookstore, what's she supposed to do?

CNBC's Annie Nova spoke with labor economist Teresa Ghilarducci, who leads the Retirement Equity Lab at The New School in New York, about why older Americans are particularly vulnerable in the current recession. They also talk about how the pandemic has exposed the real risks inherent in our current retirement paradigm. — Kenneth Kiesnoski

Trump plans to restore a bit of WHO's funding

9:50 am ET — President Donald Trump on Saturday said that the U.S. intends to restore 10% of its funding to the World Health Organization, though he noted that no official decision has been made.

Trump suspended funding to the WHO on April 14 after criticizing the agency's response to the coronavirus outbreak and accusing it of promoting China's "disinformation" about the virus. WHO officials have denied those claims. — Emma Newburger

Didn't get that stimulus check yet? This could be why…

9:38 am ET — Still waiting for that stimulus check? While more and more Americans — some 130 million, according to the latest IRS tally — are finally getting federal relief aid promised under the CARES Act by direct deposit or in the mail, others haven't seen a dime, or have gotten a lot less than they expected.

Sure, Uncle Sam might have made a mistake. But it's more likely there's a good reason you haven't been paid yet — or were written a check for a lot less than you hoped.

CNBC's Lorie Konish answers the most common questions readers have sent in about federal stimulus checks, from "Why didn't I get a payment?" to "Will there be another round of stimulus?" — Kenneth Kiesnoski

House passes historic relief package

8:42 am ET — The U.S. House of Representatives passed a coronavirus relief package worth $3 trillion on Friday night as lawmakers struggle to find common ground about how to respond to the pandemic that's ravaged the American economy. 

The Republican-led Senate opposes the Democrat-led House's legislation, and the White House has pledged to veto it in any case. 

The historic spending proposal includes nearly $1 trillion for state and local governments; a second distribution of direct payments worth $1,200 per person and up to $6,000 per household; hazard pay of $200 billion for essential workers; and $75 billion in virus testing efforts, among other things. 

For more details, read Jacob Pramuk's CNBC article here. — Elisabeth Butler Cordova

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat from California, wears a protective mask during a news conference in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, April 29, 2020.
Amanda Andrade-Rhoades | Bloomberg via Getty Images

Germany said to prepare $62 billion aid package for virus-hit towns

8:35 am ET — Germany is preparing an aid package worth 57 billion euros ($62 billion) in an effort to support municipalities through the coronavirus crisis, Reuters reported on Saturday, citing a document from the finance ministry.

The package is reportedly designed to help towns and cities stabilize their finances, with extra relief for municipalities heavily indebted as a result of the pandemic.

On Friday, Europe's growth engine reported its economy shrank by 2.2% in the first three months of the year. That marked Germany's sharpest economic contraction since the first three months of 2009 when it was in the throes of the global financial crisis. — Sam Meredith

Read CNBC's coverage from CNBC's Asia-Pacific and Europe teams overnight here: India surpasses China as cases spike; Greece reopens beaches