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‘Jaw-Dropping’: Trump Slammed for Touting Dangerous New Virus Treatments After Favored Drug is Discredited

The Daily Beast logo The Daily Beast 24/04/2020 Hunter Woodall
a man wearing a suit and tie: MANDEL NGAN © Provided by The Daily Beast MANDEL NGAN

President Donald Trump turned again Thursday to pushing tenuous findings during the coronavirus pandemic, touting an “emerging result” from the Department of Homeland Security that suggested sunlight and heat can weaken the spread of coronavirus.  

But before the end of Thursday’s coronavirus task force briefings, questions over the findings caused Trump to lash out at a reporter and go on the defensive after he suggested a range of bizarre possible treatments based off the announcement.

Bill Bryan, who leads the science and technology directorate at the Department of Homeland Security, presented an “emerging result” from departmental research that suggested UV light, heat and humidity are detrimental to COVID-19. 

“Our most striking observation to date is the powerful effect that solar light appears to have on killing the virus, both surfaces and in the air,” Bryan said. 

However, Irwin Redlener, director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University, was quick to challenge the presentation during a subsequent appearance on MSNBC.

“Everything that this scientist talked about from Homeland Security was basically incoherent, nonsensical, not really supported by evidence and really quite contrary to a lot of things we do know,” Redlener said.   

One of the most public faces of Trump’s health response to the virus, Dr. Deborah Birx, the coronavirus task force response coordinator, also avoided speaking much about the findings during Thursday’s briefing. When Trump tried to bring her into a question asking her “about the heat and the light,” and the virus, Birx said she hadn’t contemplated it “as a treatment,” and talked about fever instead helping the body respond.

According to Bryan’s presentation, higher temperatures, humidity and sunlight were found to be “detrimental to SARS-CoV-2 in saliva droplets” either on surfaces or through the air. 

A second slide touting “best practices” that ended Bryan’s presentation said that heat and humidity, either indoors and outdoors, “suppresses COVID-19,” and that “sunlight impedes virus transmission.” It also promoted that bleach and isopropyl alcohol “work to kill the virus” rapidly on surfaces. 

a man in a suit standing in front of a building: 1220658423 William Bryan, head of science and technology at the Department of Homeland Security, presents findings on sunlight and humidity during the briefing. Drew Angerer/Getty © Provided by The Daily Beast 1220658423 William Bryan, head of science and technology at the Department of Homeland Security, presents findings on sunlight and humidity during the briefing. Drew Angerer/Getty

When a reporter asked if the study was conclusive and if there was more work to be done, Bryan said “we’re continuing that.”

After the presentation, Trump asked whether UV light could be used to help people with the virus, whether sunlight could be brought “inside the body,” or whether disinfectant materials could be used to cleanse bodies in the same way they disinfect surfaces. 

“So supposing we hit the body with a tremendous, whether it’s ultraviolet or just very powerful light and I think you said that hasn't been checked but you’re going to test it. 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,” Trump said, adding it “sounds interesting.”  

He turned to the power of disinfectants, ad libbing about what it could do inside the human body.  

“And then I see the disinfectant where it knocks it out [from a surface] in a minute, one minute, and is there a way we can do something like that [by] injection inside or almost a cleaning, because you see it gets on the lungs and it does a tremendous number,” Trump pondered. 

That suggestion further concerned Redlener, who said on MSNBC: “The fact the president asked about injecting disinfectants or isopropyl alcohol into the human body was kind of jaw-dropping.”

He said UV light could be very harmful to people and it was not safe to air unbalanced medical debates on primetime. It was “a pack of nonsense” and “really distressing” to hear, he said.

The emphasis on the impact of heat on the virus came a day after Trump dominated the early part of his briefing by criticizing a Washington Post story that discussed the dire impact another wave of the virus could have on the country if it’s paired alongside winter flu season. 

“There’s a possibility that the assault of the virus on our nation next winter will actually be even more difficult than the one we just went through,” Robert Redfield, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told the Post

Trump appeared enraged over the story during Wednesday’s briefing, bringing Redfield on stage to correct it. 

“You could have some embers of corona, and you could have a big flu system,” Trump said Wednesday. “And if they combine, if they come’s not great. But we will not go through what we went through for the last two months.” 

The president devolved into attacking reporters during Thursday’s briefing as he was pressed with questions over the sunlight presentation.

When a Post reporter asked Trump if it was dangerous to push people to think it was safe to head out into the heat—even as people die in warmer areas. 

“Here we go, the new headline is Trump asks people to go outside that's dangerous. Here we go, same old group,” Trump said. “You ready. I hope people enjoy the sun and if it has an impact that's great.” 

Pressed further, Trump said he was the president and the reporter asking him a fair question was “fake news.”

“It’s just a suggestion from a brilliant lab, by a very very smart, perhaps brilliant man,” Trump said. “He’s talking about sun. He’s talking about heat and you see the numbers. So that’s it. That's all I have. I’m just here to present talent. I’m here to present ideas because we want ideas to get rid of this thing.”

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