Trump’s Disinfectant Remarks Prompt Warnings

The Four Percent

Warnings of the dangers of ingesting disinfectants follow Trump’s remarks.

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.

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.”

Even the makers of Clorox and Lysol pleaded with Americans not to inject or ingest their products.

The frantic reaction was prompted by President Trump’s suggestion on Thursday at a White House briefing that an “injection inside” the human body with a disinfectant like bleach or isopropyl alcohol could help combat the virus.

“And then I see the disinfectant, where it knocks it out in a minute,” Mr. Trump said after a presentation from William N. Bryan, an acting under secretary for science at the Department of Homeland Security, detailed the virus’s possible susceptibility to bleach and alcohol.

“One minute,” the president said. “And is there a way we can do something like that, by injection inside or almost a cleaning? Because you see it gets in the lungs and it does a tremendous number on the lungs. So it would be interesting to check that.”

Mr. Trump’s remarks caused an immediate uproar, and the White House spent much of Friday trying to walk them back. “Leave it to the media to irresponsibly take President Trump out of context and run with negative headlines,” Kayleigh McEnany, the new White House press secretary, said in a statement criticizing the coverage of Thursday night’s briefing.

But the president later undermined her argument by insisting that his question to Mr. Bryan in fact 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.

Weeks after a deadly virus reordered daily life in America, shuttering most businesses and forcing most people indoors, three states on Friday took tentative steps toward something resembling normalcy. But across Georgia, Alaska and Oklahoma, it was anything but business as usual.

A barber giving a trim in Atlanta, with a face mask and latex gloves in place, was dressed more like a surgeon preparing for an appendectomy. Beauty salons asked customers to sign legal waivers before they had their hair colored or curled. And Georgia officials recommended that salon owners perform temperature checks at their entrances.

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 Gov. Kim Reynolds of Iowa on Friday said 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.”

Tests that detect antibodies to the new coronavirus are seen as vital to reopening the country and getting the economy moving again. But public health officials have raised urgent concerns over the tests’ quality.

The false-positive metric is particularly crucial, because people may believe themselves immune to the virus when they are not and put themselves in danger.

“Those numbers are just unacceptable,” said Scott Hensley, a microbiologist at the University of Pennsylvania.

Four of the tests produced false-positive rates ranging from 11 to 16 percent, and many of the rest hovered around 5 percent. “If your kit has 14 percent false positive,” Dr. Hensley said, “it’s useless.”

Capt. Brett E. Crozier should be restored to command of the aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt, the Navy’s top officials recommended on Friday.

But Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper, who was briefed on the recommendations, has asked for more time to consider whether he will reinstate the captain of the nuclear-powered carrier.

Mr. Esper received the recommendation that Captain Crozier be reinstated from the chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Michael M. Gilday, and the acting Navy Secretary, James McPherson, on Friday.

Mr. Esper’s decision to hold up the investigation has surprised Navy officials, who believed that the defense secretary would leave the process in the hands of the military chain of command.

“In this unprecedented, dynamic, and evolving situation, the mission command and control structure during the March deployment temporarily broke down,” the general counsel at the Department of Health and Human Services wrote, according to a summary of the report obtained by The New York Times.

The general counsel cited disarray that attended the repatriation as a key factor in the breakdown, including a last-minute change of plans for where to land a plane carrying evacuees. At March Air Reserve Base, the investigation found, there was a failure to establish clear instructions for the use of protective medical equipment, and federal officials were forced to use equipment from Riverside County because of a shortage.

And even though the employees had potentially been exposed to the virus, they subsequently traveled from March to Travis Air Force Base and other military installations on commercial airlines less than five days after first interacting with evacuees, the investigation found. The summary said none of the evacuees or employees tested positive for Covid-19.

Advisers urge Trump to skip daily briefings.

President Trump’s advisers are trying to get him to agree to a different structure for the daily coronavirus briefings that have become both a source of comfort to, and a source of self-destruction for, the president.

California is taking additional steps to address the outbreak of the coronavirus in nursing homes, which have been hit particularly hard.

And across the state, members of the California National Guard, including military medics and nurses, were deployed at senior nursing facilities this week.

The Congressional Budget Office said Friday that it expects the federal budget deficit to hit $3.7 trillion for the 2020 fiscal year, which would be its largest size as a share of the economy since World War II.

The budget office said it expects a historic drop in economic activity to be recorded this spring, but that recovery will begin to set in as social distancing measures are relaxed but not eliminated at the end of June.

Still, it forecasts a slow climb back from the damage the virus caused the economy and the federal budget. It projects growth of 2.8 percent in 2021 — which would be nowhere close to the sharp rebound that some Trump administration officials have said they expect — and a budget deficit of more than $2.1 trillion for the 2021 fiscal year.

By the close of the 2020 fiscal year, which ends in September, the budget office now expects the size of the national debt to exceed the annual output of the economy.

The S&P 500 rose more than 1 percent by Friday afternoon, bucking a global decline. Shares in Europe and Asia had fallen earlier. Oil prices also rose on Friday adding to a sharp rebound earlier in the week. Still, they remain near historic lows amid concerns about oversupply.

He said the bipartisan legislation, which passed unanimously in the Senate and with just five negative votes in the House, would be “great for small businesses, great for the workers.”

Mr. Trump was joined in the Oval Office by a half-dozen Republican lawmakers. Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader who steered the bill through Congress, was not present, nor were any Democrats.

“The F.D.A. is aware of reports of serious heart rhythm problems in patients with Covid-19 treated with hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine, often in combination with azithromycin” and other drugs that can disrupt heart rhythm, the agency said. The statement also noted that many people were getting outpatient prescriptions for the drugs in the hopes of preventing the infection or treating it themselves.

There is no proof that hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine help coronavirus patients. They are approved to treat malaria and the autoimmune diseases lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. But reports from France and China suggesting a benefit sparked interest in the drugs, even though the reports lacked the scientific controls needed to determine whether the drugs actually worked.

With no proven treatments for the coronavirus, many hospitals have been using hydroxychloroquine, sometimes with azithromycin, in the hope that they might help.

Scientists have urged that the drugs be tested in controlled clinical trials to find out definitively whether they can fight the virus or quell overreactions by the immune system that can become life-threatening. Studies are underway.

Hawaii has tried to discourage visitors during the coronavirus pandemic by requiring them to quarantine for 14 days.

Since starting the program on April 6, the organization has sent 20 visitors to their airports of origin, including travelers from Guam, Los Angeles, Denver and Birmingham, Ala.

“The majority of travelers we have sent back, in my opinion, have been irresponsible in traveling to Hawaii during the Covid-19 pandemic when they know we are trying to keep Hawaii safe from the spread of this disease,” said Jessica Lani Rich, the president and chief executive of the group. The organization typically provides visitor support, such as translation assistance.

Ms. Rich said some of the visitors being returned home told her they had been taking advantage of low airfares to travel.

“I see maybe one or two tourists a day,” said Ryan Houser, a restaurant’s “fish sommelier” and Waikiki resident.

“It’s a little offensive,” he added. “I would love to go to the beach every single day if I could, but I want to minimize the Covid-19 spread and make sure the curve stays flat.”

Deaths from the virus continued their gradual descent, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said on Friday, with the state recording 422 more deaths, the smallest number since April 1. The official state death toll now stands at 16,162.

The three-day average of the number of virus patients in hospitals has fallen 11 days in a row. It has dropped by more than 3,000 since last Friday, and is down nearly 25 percent since its peak on April 13, according to statistics cited by the governor.

One area of concern remains the number of new hospital admissions. After dropping almost 35 percent from last Friday to Tuesday, it has fallen only another 5 percent since then.

“That’s basically a flat line, and that is troubling,” Mr. Cuomo said.

Hours after Mayor Bill de Blasio called on the state to extend a moratorium on evictions and enact a rent freeze in New York City, Mr. Cuomo said the state was looking at those options.

And ahead of the June 23 primary, he directed the state Board of Elections to send every voter a postage-paid application for an absentee ballot. He said that polling places would remain open.

Reporting was contributed by Peter Baker, Kim Barker, Alan Blinder, William J. Broad, Emily Cochrane, Patricia Cohen, Helene Cooper, Michael Cooper, John Eligon, Richard Fausset, Ben Fenwich, Thomas Fuller, Thomas Gibbons-Neff, J. David Goodman, Denise Grady, Christine Hauser, Adam Liptak, Elaine Glusac, Maggie Haberman, Amy Harmon, Amy Julia Harris, Nicole Hong, Carl Hulse, Miriam Jordan, Dan Levin, Sarah Mervosh, Andy Newman, Alan Rappeport, Frances Robles, Rick Rojas, Simon Romero, Michael Rothfeld, Marc Santora, Eric Schmitt, Michael D. Shear, Eileen Sullivan and Jim Tankersley.

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