On the first day in weeks that the White House did not hold a press briefing on the coronavirus, President Trump lashed out at the news media for asking “hostile questions” and suggested his daily appearances were no longer worth his time.
“What is the purpose of having White House News Conferences when the Lamestream Media asks nothing but hostile questions, & then refuses to report the truth or facts accurately,” Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter on Saturday night. “They get record ratings, & the American people get nothing but Fake News. Not worth the time & effort!”
The tweet came two days after Mr. Trump suggested at a briefing that an “injection inside” the human body with a disinfectant could help combat the coronavirus. Despite a lack of scientific evidence, Mr. Trump has long trumpeted various ideas against the virus, like sunlight and warmer temperatures as well as an array of drugs, including the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine, which he has promoted as a “what have you got to lose” remedy. Medical experts have since stepped up warnings about the drugs’ possibly dangerous side effects.
Since Thursday’s assertion, Mr. Trump has been angrily tweeting about the unfairness of his coverage after a damaging news cycle his aides have privately admitted is self-inflicted. Officials have also said that they were skeptical that Mr. Trump would fully retreat from a scenario in which he took questions from reporters, even though he said the two-hour format of the briefings was not worth the effort.
Officials inside the White House are also discussing replacing Alex M. Azar II, the health and human services secretary, after a string of news reports about the administration’s slow response to the coronavirus and a separate controversy about an ousted department official, two senior administration officials said.
Mark Meadows, President Trump’s new chief of staff, is among the aides considering removing Mr. Azar once the height of the coronavirus crisis abates, the officials said. The discussions were first reported by Politico and The Wall Street Journal.
On Saturday, two senior administration officials said that no imminent changes were planned. Among the possible replacements are Seema Verma, the administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and Dr. Deborah Birx, a key member of the coronavirus task force.
Mr. Trump has become angry with Mr. Azar in recent weeks, after stories in The Washington Post and The New York Times detailed decisions and discussions related to the administration’s response to the coronavirus. Mr. Trump, who has closely followed the coverage, was upset that he was being blamed while Mr. Azar was portrayed in a more favorable light, aides said, adding that the president was also suspicious that Mr. Azar was trying to save his own reputation at the president’s expense.
Other officials were angry that, after Mr. Azar and other top H.H.S. officials forced out Dr. Rick Bright, the head of a key drug and vaccine development agency, Mr. Azar told Vice President Mike Pence in front of a crowded task force meeting that Dr. Bright had been promoted.
But on Saturday, the White House issued a full-throated defense of Mr. Azar, calling the rumors false.
“The Department of Health and Human Services, under the leadership of Secretary Azar, continues to lead on a number of the President’s priorities,” Judd Deere, a White House spokesman, said in a statement. “Any speculation about personnel is irresponsible and a distraction from our whole-of-government response to Covid-19.”
Some states are moving to reopen. But the path ahead is far from simple.
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 crowd into bars and squeeze onto subway cars as they once did.
Because the restart will be gradual, with certain places and industries opening earlier than others, it will be complicated. The American economy is a complex web of supply chains whose dynamics do not necessarily align neatly with epidemiologists’ recommendations.
“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, coming as the nation nears a sobering 50,000 deaths from the virus, varied. Alaska allowed limited in-store shopping at retail stores, and some restaurants in Fairbanks reopened their dining rooms over the weekend. 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.
Mr. Gimenez said the county would still observe new, complicated social distancing rules, and would hire around 400 security workers to enforce them. Basketball games would be banned, for example, but shooting hoops individually would be allowed. Workers would be trained to inform visitors of the rules and ask them to leave the public spaces if they violate them.
In Southern California, where restrictive social distancing measures have remained in place, soaring temperatures tested public discipline as crowds flocked to a subset of beaches that have not been closed to the public. Frustrated officials in Orange and Ventura Counties, which kept beaches open, said on Saturday that they were ramping up their patrols, and were even deploying drones to keep an eye out overhead.
Gov. Gavin Newsom told residents that he did not want to have to report a spike in cases. “But that’s really less up to me,” he said. “It’s more up to all of you.”
In a sign the sports world is eager to restart play, the N.B.A. is planning to allow the reopening of practice facilities in states and cities that have loosened social distancing restrictions, according to a person briefed on the league’s plans who was not authorized to speak publicly. Players in states like Georgia, which have lifted some of those restrictions, would be permitted to use their teams’ facilities for voluntary individual workouts as early as Friday, the source said. Teams will still be prohibited from holding organized group activities.
As governors weigh reopening their economies, they continue to be hampered by a shortage of testing capacity, leaving them without the information that public health experts say is needed to track outbreaks and contain them. And while the United States has made strides over the past month in expanding testing, its capacity is nowhere near the level President Trump suggests it is.
There are numerous reasons. It has proved hard to increase production of reagents — sensitive chemical ingredients that detect whether the coronavirus is present — partly because of federal regulations intended to ensure safety and partly because manufacturers, who usually produce them in small batches, have been reluctant to invest in new capacity without assurance that the surge in demand will be sustained.
Some physical components of test kits, like nasal swabs, are largely imported and hard to come by amid global shortages. Health care workers still lack the protective gear they need to administer tests on a wide-scale basis. Labs have been slow to add people and equipment to process the swelling numbers of tests.
On top of all that, the administration has resisted a full-scale national mobilization, instead intervening to allocate scarce equipment on an ad hoc basis and leaving production bottlenecks and shortages largely to market forces. Governors, public health officials and hospital executives say they are still operating in a kind of Wild West economy that has left them scrambling — and competing with one another — to procure the equipment and other materials they need.
The United States conducted about 1.2 million tests from April 16 to April 22, up from about 200,000 tests from March 16 to March 22, according to data from the Covid Tracking Project. In both conservative and liberal states, governors, health departments and hospitals are finding innovative ways to cope, but the nation is far from being able to conduct the kind of widespread surveillance testing that health experts say would be optimal.
“We are not in a situation where we can say we are exactly where we want to be with regard to testing,” Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, said this week in an interview with Time.
Bishnu Virachan was a bicycle deliveryman for a grocery store in Queens. With New York City locked down, he was busier than ever.
But in early April, as he was watching television, he said he felt a pain in his heart. It frightened him, but he did not go to the emergency room. Mr. Virachan, 43, was even more afraid of that.
“What can I do? What can I do?” he asked. “Everywhere, the coronavirus.”
Mr. Virachan’s hesitancy almost cost him his life. And he is not the only patient taking grave chances.
Doctors across the country say that fear of the coronavirus is leading many people in the throes of life-threatening emergencies, like a heart attack or stroke, to stay home when ordinarily they would have rushed to an emergency room. Without prompt treatment, many suffer permanent damage or die.
Many hospitals report that heart and stroke units are nearly empty. Some medical experts fear more people are dying from untreated emergencies than from the coronavirus itself.
Mr. Virachan was lucky. After a few days, pain overrode fear and he went to Mount Sinai Hospital in Manhattan. Doctors discovered a nearly complete blockage of his left main coronary artery.
A surgeon opened the artery, but now Mr. Virachan is left with a weakened heart. Had he waited much longer, doctors said, he would have died.
When college campuses shut down around the country, many students moved back in with their parents, bemoaning the loss of independence, social connections and academic networking that are so much a part of the college experience.
But for many of the estimated one million international students attending college in the United States, the situation was much more drastic.
A lot of them came from well-off families who could secure temporary accommodations for them, or fly them home.
But others got here after their families saved, borrowed and sacrificed to pay their tuition and board, which typically is set at top-dollar rates and is an important cash-earner for colleges. For those students, continuing their college careers has become a big “if.”
The few temporary dorms set up by universities can cost more than what they were paying before. Many are couch surfing with friends, and hitting up food banks to eat. Some flew home, though their ability to return, amid visa restrictions and flight bans, is open to question.
One student started getting up at 3 a.m. to continue her linear algebra class online from Tanzania, with a seven-hour time difference.
Americans abroad have their own dilemma.
Those who had assumed they could stay overseas, and wait for the pandemic to ebb, now face an unnerving choice: Either stick it out, and prepare for the possibility they will be infected with the virus and treated in foreign hospitals, or chance catching it on the way back home.
Scientists in the United States and abroad are cautioning leaders against overreliance on coronavirus antibody tests, even as the tests have come to be seen as an essential tool for getting workers back to their jobs.
The World Health Organization warned against using antibody tests as a basis for issuing “immunity passports” to allow people to travel or return to work. Countries like Italy and Chile have proposed the permits as a way to clear people who have recovered from the virus to return to work.
Laboratory tests that detect antibodies to the coronavirus “need further validation to determine their accuracy and reliability,” the global agency said in a statement on Friday. Inaccurate tests may falsely label people who have been infected as negative, or may falsely label people who have not been infected as positive, it noted. Further, it clarified that “there is currently no evidence that people who have recovered from Covid-19 and have antibodies are protected from a second infection.”
Many unemployed people are not receiving benefits, Pew finds.
A recent survey from the Pew Research Center found that the pandemic has had a devastating impact on minorities and lower-income families: More than half of lower-income adults have had someone in their household lose their job, or seen their pay cut. Among Hispanic adults surveyed, that figure climbs to over 60 percent. More than half of lower-income respondents also said they would struggle to pay their bills this month, the survey found.
The rules vary widely by state, according to the analysis. In March, just over 65 percent of unemployed residents of Massachusetts received benefit payments; in Florida, which has been struggling with an unemployment website that Gov. Ron DeSantis calls “a jalopy,” about 8 percent of jobless residents received the aid. (That number has since gone up slightly.)
But as some states start to reopen businesses and revive their economies, researchers have found that many of the jobs that are restored are lower-income positions. That raises a set of challenges for workers: Heightened odds of coming in contact with the virus, while also having limited access to health care compared with other economic groups.
“We know people rely on these jobs,” said Oleta Garrett Fitzgerald, who is part of the Southern Rural Black Women’s Initiative. She notes that, in many places, “folks are subject to lose these jobs at the drop of a hat.”
Experts said it was critical for more widespread testing to be conducted in order to help protect these workers. “Otherwise, we are sending our people into a roaring furnace to get burned up,” said Dr. Camara Phyllis Jones, a professor of community health and preventive medicine at the Morehouse School of Medicine. “Our people are not disposable.”
The Metropolitan Opera’s At-Home Gala — a worldwide relay of live streamed performances that, in contrast to opera’s usual grandeur, was filmed using only household devices — was presented at metopera.org and will remain available until Sunday evening Eastern time.
It has an only-in-opera level of aspiration and difficulty: a roster of more than 40 of the company’s starriest singers, plus members of the orchestra and chorus, performing live across nine time zones. Among them are Lisette Oropesa, in Baton Rouge, La.; Anna Netrebko, in Vienna; and Piotr Beczala, in what he described to Peter Gelb, the Met’s general manager, as a village at the end of the earth in Poland.
The Met halted performances on March 12 in response to the coronavirus pandemic — and eventually canceled the remainder of its season.
Mr. Gelb — who hosted from New York along with Yannick Nézet-Séguin, the Met’s music director, who is in Montreal — said that the idea came about because “I am determined to keep the Met in the consciousness of the broader public, and I am determined to use any possible means to do that.”
Since the opera house went dark, it has posted a free stream from its vast Met Opera On Demand library every night. (Mr. Gelb said that in the past five weeks, the number of paid subscribers to that on-demand service has doubled, to 30,000.) Each stream is accompanied by a “Donate Now” button; the At-Home Gala has one, too, though Mr. Gelb was quick to emphasize that this is not “a PBS telethon.”
Americans confront obstacles, and surprises, in claiming stimulus payments.
The introduction of economic stimulus payments over the past several weeks has brought mixed results and some confusion as the government has struggled to get cash into the hands of some 150 million eligible recipients.
While tens of millions of Americans received payments quickly through direct deposit last week, many others have been offered little information about when their payments might arrive, or have battled identity theft or seizures of their payments by their banks.
The payments have also become a political device, as President Trump has sought to associate the payments with his leadership.
Several people whose payments were approved for direct deposit this month have reported receiving letters from the Treasury Department with a signed statement from the president about the White House’s efforts to address the coronavirus crisis.
“As we wage total war on this invisible enemy, we are also working around the clock to protect hardworking Americans like you from the consequences of the economic shutdown,” one letter said.
Regardless of how their payments arrive, more Americans may experience additional delays in the weeks ahead because of systemic disconnects between the Internal Revenue Service and the sprawling tax preparation industry, according to a report in ProPublica.
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.
In normal times, Hussam Ghazzi would usually celebrate the Islamic holy month of Ramadan with friends in New York City. But this year, he is observing the holiday alone in his Manhattan apartment, where he has been holed up for the past five weeks during the coronavirus pandemic.
The isolation has taken an emotional toll on Mr. Ghazzi, 35, but he found some solace on Friday night when he logged on to a friend’s virtual Iftar, the breaking of the fast at sunset, not long after city residents clapped en masse to thank health care workers.
“Even though we were in different time zones, it gave us an opportunity to all be together,” he said.
Like so many other facets of everyday life, the coronavirus pandemic has upended the rituals and traditions of Ramadan, when Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset. With mosques closed, imams reading the Quran online, and families practicing social distancing at home, the holiday, which began on Thursday night, is looking profoundly different across the globe.
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 Vikas Bajaj, Scott Cacciola, Michael Levenson, Joshua Barone, Karen Barrow, Alexander Burns, Ben Casselman, Emily Cochrane, Caitlin Dickerson, Richard Fausset, Ellen Gabler, Katie Glueck, Shane Goldmacher, Michael M. Grynbaum, Maggie Haberman, Christine Hauser, Lara Jakes, Gina Kolata, Sharon LaFraniere, Dan Levin, Apoorva Mandavilli, Jonathan Martin, Zach Montague, Kwame Opam, Katie Rogers, Rick Rojas, Katharine Q. Seelye, Farah Stockman, Sheryl Gay Stolberg, Jim Tankersley and Alan Yuhas.