While President Donald Trump is considering shifting his public focus to easing the economic damage caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, his coronavirus response coordinator, Dr. Deborah Birx, defended him, saying media spread misinformation that he encouraged Americans to inject disinfectant and expose their bodies to ultraviolet light as a treatment for the coronavirus.
Days after Trump’s disinfectant and UV light remarks, the White House is planning to discontinue the president’s daily task force briefings on the coronavirus outbreak, and his aides are instead aiming to move him onto “talking up the economy, in tighter controlled settings,” The Associated Press reported Sunday evening.
Trump is likely to “hold more frequent roundtables with CEOs, business owners and beneficiaries of the trillions of dollars in federal aid already approved by Congress, and begin to outline what he hopes to see in a future recovery package,” the newswire said.
Dr. Birx, an infectious disease expert, believes media spread misinformation about President Trump’s remarks.
“The president has always put health and safety first,” Birx said on Fox News Saturday night. “I think you can see that in the way that he was supportive of slowing the spread guidelines, knew the impact that would have on the economy. Yet he realized that the health and safety of Americans was his number one interest and responsibility. And that’s what he did first and continues to do as we begin to open up.”
Fox News host Jesse Watters asked Birx if she didn’t believe the president was putting anybody in danger by appearing to suggest that disinfectant and UV light could help treat patients.
“No, when [he] gets new information, he likes to talk that through out loud and really have that dialogue,” Birx explained. “And so that’s what dialogue he was having.”
She added, “I think the media is very slicey and dicey about how they put sentences together in order to create headlines. … We know for millennials in other studies that some people may only read the headlines. And if there’s not a graphic, they’re not going to look any further than that.
“And I think we have to be responsible about our headlines. I think often, the reporting maybe accurate in paragraph three, four, and five. But I’m not sure how many people actually get to paragraph three, four, and five.”
On CNN’s “State of the Union” Sunday morning, Birx once again criticized media.
CNN host Jake Tapper told Birx that “the CDC had to issue a statement. Lysol had to issue a statement … I mean, poison control centers got calls from people, and they had to issue statements saying, do not internally use disinfectants.”
“I think it bothers me this is still in the news cycle,” Birx replied. “I think we’re missing the bigger pieces of what we need to be doing as an American people to continue to protect one another.”
She continued, “I think as a scientist and public health official and researcher, sometimes I worry that we don’t get the information to the American people that we need when we continue to bring up something that was from Thursday night. I think the source of misinformation is not the news media on this … I think what got lost in there, which is very unfortunate in what happened next, is that study was critically important for the American people.”
New York Daily News reported that the Poison Control Center handled 30 cases of possible exposure to disinfectants between 9 p.m. Thursday and 3 p.m. Friday, comparing that with 13 similar cases the center received in the same 18-hour period last year.
However, a senior editor of the Reason magazine pointed out, “We are in the midst of a pandemic right now, and we were not in April 2019. Of course, more people are being exposed to household disinfectants at the moment than were during this time last year … The Daily News does note that none of the callers died or required hospitalization, which also suggests their exposure was minimal and not of the Lysol-mouthwash variety.”
Responding to media reports, Trump said Friday he was being sarcastic.
“I was asking a question sarcastically to reporters like you just to see what would happen,” Trump told reporters at an Oval Office bill signing, according to The Hill. “I was asking a sarcastic — and a very sarcastic question — to the reporters in the room about disinfectant on the inside. But it does kill it, and it would kill it on the hands and that would make things much better. That was done in the form of a sarcastic question to the reporters.”
Meanwhile, a research is actually going on to bring ultraviolet light inside the body to kill the coronavirus.
The pharmaceutical firm Aytu BioScience announced four days before the Trump remarks Thursday, that it has signed an exclusive licensing deal with Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. The center has developed and is testing a UV-A “Healight” designed to be inserted via a catheter inside the trachea to kill pathogens, including the coronavirus.
“Pre-clinical findings indicate the technology’s significant impact on eradicating a wide range of viruses and bacteria, inclusive of coronavirus,” Aytu BioScience stated. “The data have been the basis of discussions with the FDA for a near-term path to enable human use for the potential treatment of coronavirus in intubated patients in the intensive care unit.”
An op-ed published in The Daily Wire argues that the full context of what Trump said at the press briefing hasn’t been understood by “left-wing activists.”
Bill Bryan, Under Secretary for Science and Technology at DHS, talked about solar light and bleach at the press briefing, noting that "bleach will kill the virus in five minutes" and “Isopropyl alcohol will kill the virus in 30 seconds."
Afterwards, Trump stated: "So I’m going to ask Bill a question that probably some of you are thinking of if you’re totally into that world, which I find to be very interesting. So supposing when 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. And I think you said you’re going to test that too. Sounds interesting. And then 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? Because you see it gets in the lungs and it does a tremendous number on the lungs, so it’d be interesting to check that, so that you’re going to have to use medical doctors with, but it sounds interesting to me. So we’ll see, but the whole concept of the light, the way it kills it in one minute. That’s pretty powerful."
ABC News reporter Jon Karl then asked Bryan, “The president mentioned the idea of a cleaner, bleach and isopropyl alcohol emerging. There’s no scenario where that could be injected into a person, is there?”
Bryan responded, “No, I’m here to talk about the finds that we had in the study. We don’t do that within that lab at our labs.” Trump sought to clarify, “It wouldn’t be through injections, you’re talking about almost a cleaning and sterilization of an area. Maybe it works, maybe it doesn’t work, but it certainly has a big effect if it’s on a stationary object … If they’re outside, right, and their hands are exposed to the sun, will that kill it as though it were a piece of metal or something else?”
Bryan said, “I don’t want to say it will at the same rate because it’s a non-porous surface, but what we do know is that we looked at the worst-case scenario and the virus lives longer on non-porous surfaces. So porous surfaces, it doesn’t live quite as long, so in theory what you said is correct.”