Trump also suggested sunlight might be a treatment alternative and issued a false denial when asked why he has stopped promoting the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine as a potential treatment, incorrectly saying, “I haven’t at all.” He referred to how “we started with a broken test” without explaining that the faulty initial test was created during his presidency, this year.
And Trump said that presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden does not want to debate because of the coronavirus, though Biden has consistently expressed an eagerness to debate Trump even if it cannot be in person.
After Bill Bryan, the acting undersecretary of science and technology for the Department of Homeland Security, explained during the briefing that new experiments show the coronavirus does not fare well under sunlight or heat, the President suggested that Americans who have the virus could treat it by going out into the sunlight on a hot day.
“There’s been a rumor that — you know, a very nice rumor — that you go outside in the sun or you have heat and it does have an effect on other viruses,” Trump said, before asking coronavirus task force coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx “to speak to the medical doctors to see if there’s any way that you can apply light and heat to cure, you know, if you could.”
Trump then asked Birx if she “ever heard of the heat and the light” having an impact on viruses. She responded, “Not as a treatment,” before Trump asked her again to look into it.
Later, Trump again directed Birx to look into the potential for sunlight to be a cure.
“I would like you to speak to the medical doctors to see if there’s any way that you can apply light and heat to cure, you know, if you could. And maybe you can, maybe you can’t.”
After Bryan talked about experiments in which, he said, disinfectants like bleach and isopropyl alcohol quickly killed the virus, Trump mused about whether disinfectants could be used to treat the virus in humans — asking whether there is “a way we can do something like that, by injection inside or almost a cleaning.”
Facts First: As Birx told Trump directly, and as medical experts said after the briefing, sunlight isn’t a potential treatment for coronavirus. Neither are disinfectants that are used to clean non-human surfaces; Food and Drug Administration chief Dr. Stephen Hahn told CNN’s Anderson Cooper later Thursday, “I certainly wouldn’t recommend the internal ingestion of a disinfectant.”
This bizarre exchange is the latest example of Trump grasping for a quick fix for the pandemic, after he previously suggested it might “go away” in warm weather and that anti-malaria pills could be a “game-changer.”
The Reckitt Benckiser Group, which produces Lysol, flatly said on its website that “under no circumstance” should disinfectant be administered into the human body. Washington state’s emergency management agency warned against eating Tide pods or injecting disinfectant, tweeting, “don’t make a bad situation worse.”
Immediately after the briefing, two doctors told CNN’s Erin Burnett that Trump’s comments did not make medical sense and warned against taking his suggestions seriously.
“Very little of what the President said as it pertains to disinfection or phototherapy makes any sense,” said Dr. Jonathan Reiner, a cardiologist at The George Washington University Hospital who advised the White House during President George W. Bush’s tenure. “Look, everyone wants a quick fix. And the President clearly wants a quick fix; we all do. But there are no quick fixes. We have to do this the right way; we have to do this with science.”
Dr. Megan Ranney, an emergency physician who works at Rhode Island Hospital/Brown University, also batted down the President’s suggestion and warned that trying it could cause sunburn, skin cancer or other dangerous consequences.
“Going out in the sun or exposing yourself to these high-intensity UV lamps is not going to protect you from Covid-19,” she said on CNN. “I don’t want people to think that this is another miracle cure.”
“Exposing yourself to the sun or to temperatures higher than 25C degrees DOES NOT prevent the coronavirus disease,” WHO says on its website. “You can catch COVID-19, no matter how sunny or hot the weather is. Countries with hot weather have reported cases of COVID-19,” it adds.
False denial on hydroxychloroquine
At Thursday’s briefing, Trump issued a false denial when asked why he has stopped his promotion of hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malaria drug that he embraces as a potential cure for coronavirus.
“I haven’t at all,” the President said, before asking the reporter, “Why do you say I have?”
“What do you have to lose?” he asked during a briefing in April.
But he hasn’t mentioned the drug by name — or touted its effectiveness — in more than a week.
Joe Biden and debates
Trump claimed that presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden is “a guy who doesn’t want to do debates because of Covid.”
According to a pool report from Washington Post reporter Annie Linskey, Biden then added: “Look, I’m ready to debate him. Zoom or Skype or Slack or Hangouts or in person, anytime, anywhere he wants.”
This story has been updated with the notion of disinfectants as a treatment and with information from the World Health Organization refuting the idea of using sunlight.
CNN’s Maggie Fox contributed to this report.