Coronavirus: White House doctor defends Trump following disinfectant claims and tells media to ‘move on’

Deborah Birx: ‘It bothers me this is still in the news cycle’

Alex Woodward,Griffin Connolly
Sunday 26 April 2020 17:50 BST
Deborah Birx responds to Trump's disinfectant claims

A White House doctor leading Donald Trump’s response to the coronavirus pandemic has refused to condemn his potentially deadly suggestion that patients inject disinfectant as a possible cure.

Dr Deborah Birx, who visibly winced during the president’s Thursday press briefing, sought to play down the president’s remarks during television appearances on Sunday.

Asked whether she’s concerned people might “take bleach” based on the president’s comments, Dr Birx told NBC’s Meet the Press on Sunday that she “made it very clear” how she had interpreted the president’s statement and said that “this is not a treatment”.

Dr Birx pointed to a study from the Department of Homeland Security about the effects of sunlight, bleach and isopropyl alcohol on the virus, which the president asked Dr Birx and other officials to study on humans.

She said that it’s “important to figure out” whether there is “anything that decreases the half-life of that virus” and said that “direct sunlight may actually be able to kill the virus”.

During another interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper, also on Sunday, Ms Birx expressed frustration that the president’s comments about injecting disinfectant were still being panned and debated by media.

“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,” she said.

Dr Birx added that she wants the US to “move on” and said that her top priority is “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 [its] different symptoms and different comorbidities”.

On Saturday, the president skipped his daily press briefing, which he once hailed for their television ratings, one day after abruptly leaving his Friday conference without taking report questions. He said the briefings are no longer “worth the time and effort” and blamed the media for asking “hostile questions” about his administration’s response to the crisis.

But White House officials are reportedly trying to steer him away from his freewheeling briefings to protect his re-election chances. Several Republicans have also discussed changing the format of the press briefings to limit the president’s appearances

The controversy over disinfectant began at a White House press briefing on Thursday, when the president mused aloud: “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 almost a cleaning, because, you see, it gets in the lungs and it does a tremendous number.”

He called on Dr Birx, who sat stared blankly at the floor during his remarks, to “check” whether injecting chemicals can stop Covid-19.

Deborah Birx bemoans continued press coverage of Trump's disinfectant coronavirus claims

The president tried to walk back his remarks on Friday, saying that he “was asking a question sarcastically to reporters ... to see what would happen”, despite the context of his statement proving otherwise.

His claims were immediately condemned by doctors, health officials and cleaning product companies warning people not to drink their products.

Following his statement, the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention said that “household cleaners and disinfectants can cause health problems when not used properly” and urged Americans to “follow the instructions on the product label to ensure safe and effective use” at home.

Poison control centres reportedly fielded calls from sick Americans and issued statements telling people not to ingest the chemicals.

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