Donald Trump greatly alarmed doctors and scientists with a statement he made during his daily briefing. The president wondered out loud whether COVID-19 could be eradicated by injecting disinfectant or shining a powerful light into people.
Even for those who try to avoid Donald Trump’s daily briefings, his words are unavoidable. Every night at 7 p.m. or 8 p.m., we first get the excited tweets, posts and news. Then we get the fact checks and responses. Then we get the TV comedians and memes saying how unbelievable, how unproven and/or how wrong, or right, what the president said was. Within 24 hours, all that is downplayed, denied or twisted by the White House. The media is blamed for the chaos, and then it’s time for the next press conference.
Thursday was such a night. “Please don’t inject bleach and drink disinfectant,” tweeted Harvard Toxicology. “There is NO SUBSTANCE that will disinfect your body of the coronavirus from the inside,” tweeted one of many doctors. On Friday, the British manufacturer of the disinfectant Lysol advised against administering their disinfectant products into the human body (through injection, ingestion or any other route).
Then you know Trump has spouted something.
The president got excited when a scientist from the Department of Homeland Security said at a White House press conference that sunlight and disinfectants kill COVID-19 on smooth surfaces in 30 seconds.
“Supposing we hit the body with a tremendous, whether it’s ultraviolet or just a very powerful light, and … supposing you bring 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 … And is there a way we can do something like that by injection inside, or … almost a cleaning?”
It was not the first time that Trump mused about an easy solution to COVID-19. For weeks he recommended the drug hydroxychloroquine. There was anecdotal evidence that it helped, but also anecdotal evidence to the contrary. “What do you have to lose?” said Trump.
Well, it could kill you. This week, a rudimentary analysis of patients in Department of Veterans Affairs hospitals showed that patients who get the drug die twice as often as patients who don’t get the drug. On Friday, the Food and Drug Administration cautioned against using the drug outside a controlled medical environment, because patients are more likely to suffer from toxicity or a heart attack.
Trump’s supporters defended him on Thursday, pointing out that his comments were only suggestions. “President Trump did NOT advise people to drink or inject bleach,” said radio host Bill Mitchell. “Liberals lying. That’s new.” This is how it often goes: Trump supporters praise Trump for his directness, but then praise his nuanced language if a direct interpretation does not suit them. Trump told White House journalists on Friday that he was asking a question “sarcastically” to “see what would happen.”
It’s amazing that Trump’s suggestions are still being taken seriously. Earlier, Trump, who is an “expert” in everything, suggested that windmills cause cancer, that aircraft carriers will use steam again to launch aircrafts, that Greenland could be purchased, and that nukes could stop hurricanes. “Sir, we’re going to look at that,” is the response from his staff, which is a sign that the president’s harebrained ideas are not to be ignored, but rather require attention and expert manpower.
On Thursday, you could see Dr. Deborah Birx’s response: At first she blinked, and then she looked away when Trump started talking about injecting disinfectant. A Washington Post journalist who asked whether the president should limit himself to factual information was told, “I’m the president, and you’re fake news.”
Meanwhile, Trump is closing borders to immigrants, tens or hundreds of millions of dollars in aid is going to companies that are not meant to get that money, there are nearly 30 million people out of work, there are still too few tests and there are several thousand new COVID-19 deaths every day. That’s factual information. But let’s not talk about that.