Trump’s remarks on disinfectants prompt a scramble from doctors, manufacturers, and his party.
In Maryland, so many callers flooded a health hotline with questions that the state’s Emergency Management Agency had to issue a warning that “under no circumstances” should any disinfectant be taken to treat the coronavirus. In Washington State, officials urged people not to consume laundry detergent capsules. Across the country on Friday, health professionals sounded the alarm.
Even the makers of Clorox and Lysol pleaded with Americans not to inject or ingest their products.
Injecting bleach or highly concentrated rubbing alcohol “causes massive organ damage and the blood cells in the body to basically burst,” Dr. Diane P. Calello, the medical director of the New Jersey Poison Information and Education System, said in an interview. “It can definitely be a fatal event.”
The frantic reaction was prompted by President Trump’s suggestion on Thursday that an “injection inside” the human body with a disinfectant like bleach or isopropyl alcohol could help combat the virus.
“One minute,” the president said, marveling at a Department of Homeland Security official’s presentation of the virus’s possible susceptibility to disinfectants. “And is there a way we can do something like that, by injection inside or almost a cleaning?”
Mr. Trump’s remarks came as the nation headed to toward a sobering 50,000 deaths from the virus; by The New York Times’s count on Friday, American fatalities stood at more than 45,000 and global deaths were climbing toward 200,000.
The worsening economy and a cascade of ominous public and private polling have Republicans increasingly nervous that they are at risk of losing the presidency and the Senate, and some in the party fear that Mr. Trump’s single best advantage as an incumbent — his access to the bully pulpit — has effectively become a platform for self-sabotage.
The new White House press secretary said in a statement that the media had acted “irresponsibly” in its coverage of the president’s remarks. But by then even some of the president’s usual allies in conservative media were sounding the alarm, and Mr. Trump later undermined his press secretary’s argument by insisting that his question had been an elaborate prank that he had engineered to trick reporters.
“I was asking a question sarcastically to reporters like you just to see what would happen,” Mr. Trump said on Friday to journalists gathered in the Oval Office.
The president on Friday signed the $484 billion relief bill into law, replenishing a fund for small businesses strapped by lockdowns across the country and providing money for hospitals and increased testing. The Congressional Budget Office said it expects the federal budget deficit to hit $3.7 trillion for the 2020 fiscal year, its largest size as a share of the economy since World War II.
And a by the Department of Health and Human Services found that federal health employees did not have adequate protective gear or training when they interacted with Americans quarantined for possible exposure to the coronavirus at a military installation in California.
Because the restart will be gradual, with certain places and industries opening earlier than others, it will by definition be complicated. The U.S. economy is a complex web of supply chains whose dynamics don’t necessarily align neatly with epidemiologists’ recommendations.
Georgia, Alaska and Oklahoma are beginning the reopening process. But even under the most optimistic estimates, it will be months, and possibly years, before Americans again crowd into bars and squeeze onto subway cars as they once did.
“It’s going to take much longer to thaw the economy than it took to freeze it,” said Diane Swonk, chief economist for the accounting firm Grant Thornton.
The relaxed rules varied. Alaska allowed limited in-store shopping at retail stores. Oklahoma reopened its state parks. South Carolina, which was in front of the rest of the country in its effort to draw residents out of their homes, once again allowed access to public beaches. And Georgia officials recommended that salon owners perform temperature checks at their entrances.
Gov. Kim Reynolds of Iowa said that she would allow farmers’ markets to reopen and let doctors perform nonessential surgeries beginning on Monday.
“Some people are scared to get out,” said Chris Edwards, a barber who welcomed his first customers in weeks. “I get it.”
For the past few weeks, more than 50 scientists have been working diligently to do something that the Food and Drug Administration mostly has not: Verify that 14 coronavirus antibody tests now on the market actually deliver accurate results.
These tests are crucial to reopening the economy, but public health experts have raised urgent concerns about their quality. The research, completed just days ago and posted online Friday, confirmed some of those fears: Of the 14 tests, only three delivered consistently reliable results. And even the best had flaws.
Only one of the tests delivered no false positives — and just two ot
hers did well 99 percent of the time. Even those three fell short in detecting antibodies in infected people.
The false-positive metric is particularly crucial, because people who are told they have antibodies may believe themselves immune to the virus when they are not. Four of the tests produced false-positive rates ranging from 11 to 16 percent, and many of the rest hovered around 5 percent.
“Those numbers are just unacceptable,” said Scott Hensley, a microbiologist at the University of Pennsylvania.
“If your kit has 14 percent false positive,” he added, “it’s useless.”
The disease caused by the coronavirus has killed more than 10,500 residents and staff members at nursing homes and long-term care facilities nationwide, according to a New York Times analysis. That is nearly a quarter of deaths in the United States from the pandemic.
But states including California, New Jersey and New York are increasingly turning to nursing homes to relieve the burden on hospitals and take in Covid-19 patients considered stable enough to be released.
Although there is no evidence so far that the practice has allowed infections to spread in nursing homes, many residents and advocates fear that it is only a matter of time. One lawsuit in New Jersey alleges that a worker was likely to have been sickened by a Covid-19 patient readmitted from a hospital.
In New York, the epicenter of the outbreak, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo described nursing homes on Saturday as a “feeding frenzy for this virus.” But the state issued a strict new rule last month: Nursing homes must readmit residents sent to hospitals with the coronavirus and accept new patients as long as they are deemed “medically stable.”
Homes can turn patients away if they claim they can’t care for them safely — but administrators say they worry that could provoke regulatory scrutiny.
In contrast to these states, Connecticut and Massachusetts designated certain facilities for Covid-19 patients alone — considered the safest way to free up hospital beds. The Washington Health Care Association, which represents long-term care facilities in Washington State, has asked officials to adopt a similar policy. So far, they have not.
“It’s got to happen,” said Robin Dale, the association’s president. “Then we would not have this hodgepodge of every nursing home in the state having one or two positives and crossing your fingers that it works out.”
With the coronavirus outbreak freezing public life, the prospective Democratic presidential nominee, Joseph R. Biden Jr., has been forced to adapt to a cloistered mode of campaigning never before seen in modern American politics.
For the most part, Mr. Biden is seeking to run a campaign based on something like digital-age fireside chats, offering himself as a calmly authoritative figure rather than a brawler like his opponent.
He does not make a habit of watching the president’s briefings in full; he is said to be fixated mainly on the eventual challenge — if he wins — of governing amid a pandemic.
But he has lamented being deprived of human contact, and he has expressed exasperation with media coverage critiquing his limited visibility compared with President Trump’s daily performances in the White House briefing room.
Philip Kahn liked to say that history repeats itself, a truism that has hit home for his family in extraordinary fashion.
His twin brother, Samuel, died as an infant during the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918-19. Now Mr. Kahn himself has died of the coronavirus. He was 100.
“He was a very healthy 100,” Warren Zysman, one of his grandsons, said in a phone interview. “He watched the news, he was completely aware of the pandemic. When he started coughing, he knew he might have it, and he knew the irony of what was going on.”
Mr. Kahn, a decorated World War II veteran, died on April 17 at his home on Long Island. He had never known his brother; the twins were born in Manhattan on Dec. 15, 1919, while the Spanish flu was still raging. The boys were only few weeks old when Samuel died.
“He always told me how hard the loss of his brother was for his parents,” Mr. Zysman said, “and that he carried this void with him his entire life.”
Pass the time this weekend in a different way.
If you are in need of inspiration for some games to play with your friends or family this weekend, here are some tried-and-true classics, a few new video game finds, and several tips on analog favorites.
Reporting was contributed by Ben Casselman, Jonathan Martin, Maggie Haberman, Alexander Burns, Shane Goldmacher, Katie Glueck, Karen Barrow, Emily Cochrane, Richard Fausset, Christine Hauser, Michael M. Grynbaum, Dan Levin, Apoorva Mandavilli, Katie Rogers, Rick Rojas, Katharine Q. Seelye, Jim Tankersley and Alan Yuhas.