WASHINGTON — The president of the United States, Donald Trump seriously suggested that Americans “clean” their bodies with disinfectant to treat the coronavirus, in response to Bill Bryan, who heads the Department of Homeland Security’s Science and Technology division, touting cleaning agents’ ability to kill coronavirus on surfaces. “I see disinfectant, where it knocks [coronavirus] out in a minute—one minute—and is there a way we can do something like that by injection inside, or almost a cleaning,” Trump said at Thursday’s press briefing. “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 you're going to have to use medical doctors, but it sounds interesting to me.” (When Bryan said that his lab was not doing any research to look into that, the president responded, “Maybe it works, maybe it doesn’t work.”)
The White House science official presented research that suggested light and disinfectants like isopropyl alcohol and bleach could effectively kill the coronavirus on surfaces, Trump chimed in with his own helpful medical advice: Why not just get those things inside the body and kill off the coronavirus that way?
The president also followed up on Bryan’s suggestion that the coronavirus appears to die off faster in sunlight and hot, humid conditions by declaring that light could also somehow be a coronavirus treatment when the virus is already inside the body. “Supposing we hit the body with a tremendous, whether it’s ultraviolet or just very powerful light,” Trump said, “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.” The president later asked public health expert Dr. Deborah Birx if there were any current treatments using light or heat to cure the novel coronavirus. “I say maybe you can, maybe you can’t. I'm not a doctor, but I'm like a person that has a good you-know-what,” Trump said, pointing at his head. Birx responded that she “had not seen” light or heat being used as a “treatment” for the virus, though fever is a key way that the body combats viruses.
Obviously, there’s a lot that’s egregiously wrong with Trump’s line of thinking here. Disinfectants like bleach, isopropyl alcohol, and cleaners like Lysol and Clorox are not safe to be ingested, and can even be dangerous outside the body, with the coronavirus outbreak triggering a new surge of accidental poisonings from cleaning products. (Never mix bleach and vinegar!) “This notion of injecting or ingesting any type of cleansing product into the body is irresponsible, and it's dangerous,” pulmonologist and global health policy expert Dr. Vin Gupta told NBC News about the president’s comments. “It's a common method that people utilize when they want to kill themselves.”
While any potential benefits of sunlight and warm weather on coronavirus are still largely unclear—plenty of areas with hot, humid weather still have coronavirus outbreaks—the form of ultraviolet light most likely to effectively kill the coronavirus, UVC light, is far more powerful than regular sunlight, and it’s unsafe to expose your skin to it. As UV light has gotten hyped as a way to disinfect surfaces from the coronavirus, the World Health Organization even issued a specific warning against using ultraviolet light lamps on your hands or other skin areas, given the irritation that would occur. “UVC is really nasty stuff–you shouldn't be exposed to it,” Dan Arnold, who works for disinfectant equipment company UV Light Technology, told the BBC. “It can take hours to get sunburn from UVB, but with UVC it takes seconds. If your eyes are exposed… you know that gritty feeling you get if you look at the sun? It’s like that times 10, just after a few seconds.”
Among Trump’s most dangerous methods of responding to the coronavirus outbreak has been his passion for hyping unproven COVID-19 treatments, suggesting that drugs like hydroxychloroquine are a panacea for the deadly virus even as medical experts insist otherwise. “What do you have to lose? Take it,” Trump said about the anti-malaria drug in early April, only to later back off pushing the drug after studies suggested hydroxychloroquine could be ineffective among COVID-19 patients or actually contribute to higher death rates. But as Trump’s supposed miracle drug loses its shine, the president’s brainstorming for how to treat the coronavirus instead is getting more and more unhinged.
As the coronavirus continues to claim thousands of lives, much still remains unknown about the disease and how to effectively treat it, even among the most highly-qualified health professionals. The president’s continued insistence on weighing into this high-stakes medical discussion with his completely uneducated spitballing has already proven to be dangerous, with his relentless chloroquine cheerleading killing at least one person who followed his advice while causing supply shortages for those who actually need the medication to treat conditions like lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. Should supporters of the president heed his latest comments and try to treat the coronavirus by drinking bleach or exposing themselves to dangerous levels of UV light, even more damage is sure to follow. “It's exceptionally dangerous,” Gupta told NBC about Trump’s advice. “There's people who hang on to every word of the president.” Yet when Washington Post journalist Philip Rucker pointed out to Trump the perils of him pushing unproven treatments, telling the president