On Thursday, President Donald Trump floated the potentially dangerous idea of injecting disinfectant or “a very powerful light” into coronavirus patients as a treatment because these daily coronavirus briefings have apparently devolved into the president’s personal freeform brainstorming hour.
If that suggestion sounds likes utter crap, that’s because it is. Even federal coronavirus response coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx appeared baffled by the president’s remarks from her seat just offstage, as the folks on Twitter were quick to point out.
Trump made the suggestion after Bill Bryan, head of the Department of Homeland Security’s science and technology division, presented preliminary findings from his team’s research showing that the virus doesn’t last as long in respiratory droplets when exposed to sunlight, warmer temperatures, and high humidity. Household disinfectants were also found to be highly effective at killing the virus in these droplets, he continued; bleach kills it in five minutes and isopropyl alcohol gets the job done in 30 seconds.
Bryan went on to advise how this new research could help authorities better curb the virus’s transmission, such as by using heat and humidity to disinfect contaminated areas and increasing health precautions in regions where environmental factors might help the virus survive longer on surfaces. And while he made no mention of effects on potential treatments, Trump came away with a very different understanding:
“So supposing we hit the body with a tremendous — whether it’s ultraviolet or just a very powerful light — and I think you said that hasn’t been checked but you’re going to test it,” Trump said to Bryan during Thursday’s briefing. “And then I said, supposing you brought the light inside the body, which you can do either through the skin or in some other way, and I think you said you’re going to test that, too. Sounds interesting.”
By why stop there: “I see the disinfectant where it knocks it out in a minute, one minute. And is there a way we can do something like that by injection inside or almost a cleaning? As you see, it gets in the lungs, it does a tremendous number on the lungs, so it would be interesting to check that.”
Say what now?
While it’s not the first unproven coronavirus treatment the president has suggested, it’s easily the most bizarre. And it goes without saying, but the disinfectants Trump listed are toxic so don’t try to treat the virus by shooting up rubbing alcohol (cooking yourself under the sun isn’t advisable either). Medical professionals were quick to castigate the president for broadcasting his definitively not medical opinion.
As a physician, I can’t recommend injecting disinfectant into the lungs or using UV radiation inside the body to treat COVID-19. Don’t take medical advice from Trump. https://t.co/YcZXJXfSxu
— Kashif (@kashmood) April 23, 2020
“This notion of injecting or ingesting any type of cleansing product into the body is irresponsible and it’s dangerous,” pulmonologist and NBC News contributor Dr. Vin Gupta told the network. “It’s a common method that people utilise when they want to kill themselves.”
Former vice president and 2020 presidential hopeful Joe Biden similarly chastised Trump, tweeting on Thursday that the president should focus on answering the demand for desperately needed medical supplies and coronavirus tests instead.
Trump later walked back his comments when Bryan clarified that federal laboratories aren’t considering . . . whatever the hell the president was talking about. Mainlining bleach to kill the virus? Besting this epidemic by turning us all into Dr. Manhattans?
“Maybe it works. Maybe it doesn’t work … I’m not a doctor. I’m, like, a person who has a good you-know-what,” Trump said, motioning to his head. He also later turned to Birx and asked whether she’d “ever heard” of heat and light being used to cure a virus. “Not as a treatment,” she responded.