On day 94 of the Covid-19 pandemic, William Bryan, an acting undersecretary for science and technology at the Department of Homeland Security, reported that bleach or isopropyl alcohol could kill SARS-CoV-2 in saliva or respiratory fluids.
…I see the disinfectant, where it knocks it out in 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 on the lungs, so it’d be interesting to check that, so that you’re going to have to use medical doctors with, but it sounds interesting to me.
Trump suggests injecting coronavirus patients with light or disinfectants to cure them https://t.co/RW4SGkGAlQ
— The Washington Post (@washingtonpost) April 23, 2020
Isopropyl alcohol had been reported as the faster-acting disinfectant. Reporters substituted “bleach” for disinfectant when reporting the event due to the ambiguity in his comments.
“The disinfectant, where it knocks it out in a minute, and is there a way we can do something like that by injection inside, or almost a cleaning. It gets in the lungs” — Trump seems to suggests that injecting disinfectant inside people could be a treatment for the coronavirus pic.twitter.com/amis9Rphsm
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) April 23, 2020
Medical professionals and companies immediately responded with ‘don’t drink bleach’ messages.
After a “sharp rise” in calls to poison control centers, the CDC surveyed 502 U.S. adults on 04 May 2020.
About 2-in-5 reported using a “high-risk practice not recommended” to try to prevent getting sick from Covid-19. And 1-in-8 reported “drinking or gargling diluted bleach solutions, soapy water, and other cleaning and disinfectant solutions.”
Thirty-nine percent reported intentionally engaging in at least one high-risk practice not recommended by CDC for prevention of SARS-CoV-2 transmission (2), including application of bleach to food items (e.g., fruits and vegetables) (19%); use of household cleaning and disinfectant products on hands or skin (18%); misting the body with a cleaning or disinfectant spray (10%); inhalation of vapors from household cleaners or disinfectants (6%); and drinking or gargling diluted bleach solutions, soapy water, and other cleaning and disinfectant solutions (4% each).
It wasn’t just poison control centers.
The leader of the most prominent U.S. group peddling potentially lethal industrial bleach as a coronavirus "miracle cure" wrote to Trump this week.
Mark Grenon said chlorine dioxide 'can rid the body of Covid-19' days before Trump promoted disinfectant. https://t.co/1J9tDJeGbf
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) April 24, 2020
Mark Grenon, a self-ordained ‘archbishop’ of the Genesis II Church in Florida, had sent Trump a letter touting the benefits of disinfectants for Covid-19 prevention prior to that press conference.
In his letter, Mark Grenon told Trump that chlorine dioxide – a powerful bleach used in industrial processes such as textile manufacturing that can have fatal side-effects when drunk – is “a wonderful detox that can kill 99% of the pathogens in the body”. He added that it “can rid the body of Covid-19”.
Grenon’s “church” was “the largest producer and distributor of chlorine dioxide bleach as a “miracle cure” in the country in April 2020.
By the summer, the long-running family get-rich-quackery had come to an end
A month after the Florida raid [on the headquarters of the Genesis II Church of Health and Healing in Bradenton, FL], elite Colombian military operatives arrested Mark and Joseph in the port city of Santa Marta. Mark and his three captured sons were charged with conspiracy to defraud the U.S., conspiracy to violate the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, and criminal contempt, for marketing and selling MMS as well as for violating an earlier order to cease operations. A statement from Colombian law enforcement at the time of Mark’s and Joseph’s arrests said MMS had been linked to the deaths of seven people in the U.S.
On the one-year anniversary, Politico opined:
A year later, the episode is still considered a defining point in the Covid fight and a prime exhibit of what can go wrong when an over-confident president believes he can message his way through a once-in-a-lifetime global pandemic.
Thus disinformation was an early antagonist to US public health officials and their efforts to curtail the virus, one that remains with us two years later. The World Health Organization has a new public information campaign designed to address dis- and misinformation.