Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union,” White House coronavirus response coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx objected to the questioning from anchor Jake Tapper regarding President Donald Trump’s comments about disinfectants.
TAPPER: There was an odd moment on Thursday, when President Trump at the briefing mused aloud about whether injecting U.V. light or disinfectant into the human body as a way to treat coronavirus could be something that you look into. You were sitting right there, as you know. Take a listen.
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TRUMP: And then I said, supposing you brought the light inside the body, you — which you can do, either through the skin or in some other way. 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 — or almost a cleaning? Because you see it gets in the lungs.
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TAPPER: Dr. Birx, I just want to give you the opportunity right now. What should the American people know about disinfectants and the human body?
BIRX: Well, first, that was a dialogue he was having between the DHS scientist and himself for information that he had received and he was discussing. We have made it clear, and he — 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. I think what got lost in there, which very — is unfortunate, I think, in what happened next is, that study was critically important for the American people. And you say, why was that important? Because we had an MIT study just from a few weeks ago that said — that suggests, when people are talking and singing, aerosolized virus could be moving forward. What this study showed for the first time is that sunlight can impact that aerosolization outside.
BIRX: This — this is why we asked them to do it. We’re trying to understand why people should be wearing masks. You’re wearing masks because you could have asymptomatic infection, and you will decrease your transmission to others.
BIRX: And I think the half-life in the sunlight is very important as we move forward to really understand how we can effectively create decontamination in different environments.
TAPPER: Yes. No, look, I get it. And I understand the importance of that study that the DHS official was discussing from the lab in Maryland about the effect of sunlight on having or, even more effectively, the life of coronavirus, the effect of disinfectants on nonporous solids, like doorknobs. But that’s not what the president was musing about. He was talking to about ways to take that science and somehow turn it into injecting U.V. light or disinfectants into the human body, which, as you know, especially with disinfectants, can be lethal. And the CDC had to issue a statement. Lysol had to issue a statement. I understand that you’re taking a generous approach to this when it comes to President Trump musing aloud. But this is potentially dangerous. I mean, poison control centers got calls from people, and they had to issue statements saying, do not internally use disinfectants. As a doctor, doesn’t that bother you that you have to even spend any time discussing this?
BIRX: Well, I think 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. And we should be having that dialogue about asymptomatics. We should be having that dialogue about this unique clotting that we’re seeing. And we’re the first country that really had young people to this degree. Italy and Europe is about 8 years older than us, as a median age. So, this is the first experience of this virus in an open society, where we really can understand what’s happening to every different age group. These are the things that we should be talking about and focusing on. So, I think, as a — 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. So, I think I have answered that question. I think the president made it clear that physicians had to study this. I think I have made it clear that this was a musing, as you — as you described. But I want us to move on to be able to get information to the American people that can help them protect each other and also help them understand how devastating this virus is to different age groups and different symptoms and different comorbidities.
TAPPER: Well, I would agree with that. I would say that I think the source of the misinformation is not the news media on this. But, Dr. Deborah Birx, we appreciate your — your coming here and taking our questions. And best of luck with your job. God bless you.