President Trump warns of what could be “the toughest week,” while also saying he would like to consider relaxing social distancing rules for Easter services.
Here’s what you need to know:
- President Trump veers from predicting ‘a lot of death’ to revisiting Easter services.
- The U.S. will stockpile large quantities of an anti-malarial drug, the president says, though proof it can treat coronavirus is scant.
- Will Americans follow guidance to wear masks?
- Texas nursing homes are reporting outbreaks.
- Gov. Andrew Cuomo forecasts New York’s crisis peaking within about a week.
- The Wisconsin primary is still scheduled for Tuesday despite a lack of plans on how to keep voters safe.
- Trump backs the Navy’s firing of a captain who sounded the alarm about an outbreak on his carrier.
President Trump veers from predicting ‘a lot of death’ to revisiting Easter services.
Veering from grim warnings to baseless assurances in a single news conference, President Trump on Saturday predicted a surging death toll in what may be “the toughest week” of the coronavirus pandemic before also dispensing unproven medical advice. He suggested again that Americans might be able to congregate for Easter Sunday services.
“There will be a lot of death,” Mr. Trump said at the White House, where he and other American officials depicted some parts of the United States as climbing toward the peaks of their crises, while warning that new hot spots were emerging in Pennsylvania, Colorado and Washington, D.C.
At one point Mr. Trump, who initially set Easter Sunday as a target date for re-opening the country before backing off, said that the holiday would be a particularly “sad” day for Americans prohibited from gathering in large numbers. He said he would again like to consider relaxing social distancing rules for Easter services and that he had told advisers, “maybe we could allow special for churches” gatherings that were possibly outside with “great separation.”
“It’s something we should talk about,” he added, but he did not announce any changes to existing federal recommendations. “But somebody did say that, well then you’re sort of opening it up to that little, you know, do we want to take a chance on doing that when we’ve been doing so well?”
More than 8,000 people have died so far in the United States, but the White House has said its projections show that at least 100,000 people could die because of the virus.
“The next two weeks are extraordinarily important,” said Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House’s coronavirus response coordinator. “This is the moment to not be going to the grocery store, not going to the pharmacy, but doing everything you can to keep your family and your friends safe and that means everybody doing the six-feet distancing, washing their hands.”
Dr. Birx also said that Detroit, New York and Louisiana — the current hot spots — will likely reach a peak in the next six to seven days, citing the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation’s predictions.
Almost immediately after the briefing started, the president lashed out at the news media, saying it is “critical that certain media outlets stop spreading certain false rumors and creating fear and panic with the public.”
The U.S. will stockpile large quantities of an anti-malarial drug, the president says, though proof it can treat coronavirus is scant.
President Trump appeared to suggest on Saturday that the federal government was placing large amounts of the anti-malarial drug hydroxycholoroquine in its Strategic National Stockpile, speaking optimistically about its potential to treat coronavirus patients and saying he would consider taking it himself if needed.
But only anecdotal reports and one small clinical trial have shown any benefits, and the F.D.A. has not approved the drug for coronavirus treatments. Also, a spike in interest in the drug the president has helped fan has left patients who rely on it to treat chronic diseases wondering whether they will be able to fill their prescriptions.
“We’re going to be distributing it through the Strategic National Stockpile,” Mr. Trump said at a White House news conference, adding, “we have millions and millions of doses of it.”
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services received 30 million doses of hydroxychloroquine sulfate last month from Sandoz, a division of Novartis, a pharmaceutical company based in Switzerland, for use in clinical trials and potentially treating coronavirus patients.
Previous reports from China and France that hydroxychloroquine seemed to help patients, along with enthusiastic comments from Mr. Trump, have created a buzz around the drug and the closely related chloroquine, which have been used for decades to treat autoimmune diseases like lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. The subsequent surge in demand has led to hoarding and shortages.
With no proven treatment for the coronavirus, many hospitals have simply been giving hydroxychloroquine to patients, reasoning that it might help and probably would not hurt, because it is relatively safe.
Mr. Trump said he had also spoken to Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India about procuring millions more doses of hydroxycholoriquine from that country.
At one point, Mr. Trump appeared to offer medical advice. “What do you have to lose? Take it. I really think they should take it,” Mr. Trump said.
“Hydroxychloroquine. Try it. If you’d like.”
On Friday, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious diseases, warned Americans against assuming the drug would be a silver bullet against the coronavirus, noting that evidence of its effectiveness was scant and more studies were needed.
Will Americans follow guidance to wear masks?
The United States on Saturday experienced its first full day under a federal recommendation that people wear cloth masks when they go out in public in many instances, the latest effort to contain the coronavirus pandemic that has seen more than 1 million people worldwide become infected.
With President Trump having undercut the new guidance of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention by immediately declaring that he would not wear a mask himself, it was far from clear how many Americans would ultimately embrace the recommendation.
Some state and local officials have made a point of wearing facial coverings, and at least a couple of localities have even required them by ordinance. But health experts have also feared that people would don masks only to loosen their compliance with social distancing guidelines.
More than 300,000 people in the United States have tested positive for the virus, and officials believe that the number of people who have been infected is far higher. More than 8,000 people have died, including at least 3,565 in New York, the hardest hit state.
Globally, cases passed 1.1 million and deaths passed 59,000. The British government reported 708 deaths — a grim national record for a 24-hour period.
The recommendation for masks in the United States followed an intense West Wing debate over several days as a divided Trump administration wrestled with whether to request such a drastic change in Americans’ social behavior.
Ultimately, the C.D.C. suggested that people wear what it described as “simple cloth face coverings” when they are in places, like grocery stores and pharmacies, where it might be more challenging to keep away from others.
But Mr. Trump, in an appearance at the White House on Friday evening, repeatedly described the recommendation as voluntary and made clear that he did not intend to wear a mask.