President Donald Trump’s asinine remarks about injecting disinfectant that he later claimed to have “said sarcastically” were, in fact, serious (to no one’s surprise) but also just his personal “musings” about potential coronavirus treatments, according to White House coronavirus task force response coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx. And she’d really prefer if everyone could just shut up about the whole thing.
“It bothers me that this is still in the news cycle, because 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,” Birx said in a CNN interview Sunday. She similarly declined to denounce the president’s dangerous comments in an appearance on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
Now, everyone who’s been watching these daily covid-19 briefings has noticed by now that the president uses them as a freeform thought exercise. He’s already bragged online about how they pull in more viewers than the season finale of The Bachelor (even though those figures came from the “failing” New York Times). Even so, it’s alarming to see such a high-ranking medical professional give the most powerful political figure in the nation their blessing to throw out whatever treatment idea pops into their head on live television, and during a pandemic no less.
On Thursday, the results from a Department of Homeland Security study found that the novel coronavirus doesn’t last as long in respiratory droplets under certain environmental conditions and that household disinfectants are effective at quickly killing the virus on surfaces. This led the president to do what he does best: publically declare his thoughts on subjects he’s utterly unqualified to talk about.
“I see the disinfectant where it knocks it out in a minute, one minute,” Trump said Thursday. “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.”
Reckitt Benckiser, which makes the disinfectant Lysol, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention quickly issued statements warning people to ignore the president’s suggestion, as disinfectants are toxic and can be dangerous and even deadly when not used properly. According to Birx, though, Trump’s remarks weren’t so much guidance as they were an ongoing discussion about possible treatments for a disease that has so far sickened nearly 1 million Americans and killed more than 54,000.
“That was a dialogue he was having between the DHS scientists and himself for information that he had received and he was discussing,” she told CNN. “We have made it clear and when he turned to me I made it clear and he understood that it was not as a treatment. And I think that kind of dialogue will happen.”
“As a scientist and a public health official and a researcher, sometimes I worry that we don’t get the information to the American people that they need when we continue to bring up something that was from Thursday night.”
Many would argue that concern is warranted, however, given that the president’s previous “musings” have already proven dangerous for those that take them seriously or misinterpret them. After Trump touted another unproven treatment, chloroquine, as a possible “game changer” in this pandemic, one Arizona couple ingested fish tank cleaner that contained chloroquine phosphate to try and fight the virus, leading to the husband’s death and wife’s hospitalization.