Donald Trump has pulled the plug on daily White House press briefings just as the number of US deaths attributed to coronavirus neared 50,000, accusing the US media of asking hostile questions and inaccurate reporting.
The US president was widely criticised after Thursday’s briefing, in which he asked his scientific advisers to test the idea of a disinfectant injection or irradiating the body with ultraviolet light to treat coronavirus.
Mr Trump later claimed his suggestion was a sarcastic comment intended to provoke reporters.
“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 tweeted. “They get record ratings, & the American people get nothing but Fake News. Not worth the time & effort!”
There is no coronavirus briefing planned for Sunday, according to the White House schedule.
On Friday the US Food and Drug Administration warned of the risk of heart problems in patients taking two antimalarial drugs that Mr Trump touted as potential treatments for Covid-19.
Mr Trump’s unconventional style of politics is being tested by the coronavirus pandemic. More than 50 per cent of Americans now disapprove of his response to the outbreak, compared with 46 per cent who approve, according to an analysis of polling data by 538.com.
More people trust state and local leaders, who Mr Trump has often criticised, as a source of information on the pandemic.
According to a survey published by Associated Press and NORC at the University of Chicago on Thursday, 23 per cent of Americans considered the president a trustworthy source of information, while 52 per cent trusted their state and local leaders.
The number of US deaths attributed to coronavirus approached 50,000 on Saturday, as the daily death toll in the country picked up for the first time in four days.
The number of fatalities rose by 2,194 to 47,980, according to data compiled by the Covid Tracking project — making it the fourth deadliest day in the US since the pandemic began.
New York saw the biggest daily increase in deaths at 437, an uptick from the previous day, followed by Massachusetts at 370.
Meanwhile, the number of confirmed cases climbed by 40,882 to total 931,698, according to Covid Tracking project — that marked the biggest daily increase in confirmed cases, according to FT calculations.
The rise came as the number of tests conducted nationwide rose by 300,000 to nearly 5.2m and a number of states cleared through backlogs.
The organisation noted that some of the increase in testing is due to reporting changes like those seen in California, but that it also reflects a “substantial change over the last several days in the testing capacity of the United States”.
It also noted the number of positive tests had eased a little, with the US now reporting an 18 per cent positive rate. Unlike the Covid Tracking Project, Johns Hopkins University counts so-called presumptive deaths in New York City, which puts its total death count at a higher 47,272.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention put the death toll in the US at 50,439 and said that included 5,402 probable deaths.