A church in Arizona set to hold a rally for President Donald Trump is claiming that it can kill 99% of COVID-19 molecules.
In a video posted to the Phoenix-based Dream City Church’s Facebook page on Monday, Pastor Luke Barnett and Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Brendon Zastrow assured attendees that “newly-installed technology” would keep them safe.
“Yeah, we’ve installed CleanAir EXP,” Zastrow says. “We have a local Arizona company and was technology developed by some members of our church.”
The air filtration system, Zastrow further alleges, can eliminate “99.9% of COVID within 10 minutes.”
“So you can know when you come here, you’ll be safe and protected,” Barnett says. “Thank god for great technology and thank god for being proactive.”
But the church’s claims quickly came under scrutiny as Arizona grapples with one of the largest outbreaks in the nation. Health experts speaking with local NBC affiliate 12 News argued that the church’s assurances are concerning.
Saskia Popescu, an infectious disease epidemiologist with the University of Arizona, stated that air-filtration systems may not be effective when large groups are in close proximity.
“Air circulation and filtration are important, but my concern is that this does not discount the direct, close-quarters exposure we worry about,” Popescu said. “It won’t magically rid the respiratory droplets from a cough or person shouting next to you. It can help clean and recirculate air, but primary transmission is through face to face, close contact and this system is not an intervention for that.”
Popescu also warned that by advertising its system, the church may be inadvertently dissuading the congregation from wearing face coverings.
“Moreover, I worry that people will be less incentivized to wear a mask if they think this is how the system works,” Popescu added. “Masks, and socially distancing are critical. Rallies are high risk for exposures.”
The church opted to pull down its video shortly after receiving pushback online. Concerns over masks at the event aren’t unfounded given that Zastrow just last month sent out a tweet insinuating that masks might not reduce transmission risks at all. It remains to be seen whether Trump will wear a mask during the event as well.
The Daily Dot reached out to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to inquire about the air-filtration system but did not receive a reply by press time. No governmental body has certified any such systems as being effective against COVID-19.
It turns out though that the church may have misrepresented the abilities of the CleanAir EXP altogether. A disclaimer on the company’s website regarding independent testing of the system says that it can kill 99.9% of “Coronavirus 229E,” not COVID-19. Coronavirus 229E is merely a strain of the common cold.
Despite the important distinction, the church’s inaccurate claim has already been repeated by the “Students for Trump” group hosting Tuesday’s event.
“He says ‘99%,’ so I’m OK with this,” Students for Trump spokesman Andrew Kolvet said. “Obviously there are risks.”
Although Students for Trump is calling on attendees to wear masks inside the 3,000-seat megachurch, those who choose not to are unlikely to be kept out.
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H/T 12 News