Can air filtration stop the coronavirus at a Trump rally in Phoenix? Experts doubt it.

Dream City Church in Phoenix, where President Donald Trump will attend a rally on Tuesday, made a surprising claim Sunday: His building has an air filtration system that could neutralize the coronavirus. Many experts found this surprising, because there is little evidence that such systems can stop the spread of the virus.

The claim came in a video in which Senior Pastor Luke Barnett and Director of Operations Brendon Zastrow discussed the upcoming presidential visit and the air purification system of a local company, IONaer, which echoes the claim of the effect of your system on the virus on your website IONaer does business as CleanAir EXP.

“It was a technology developed by some members of our church,” said Zastrow. “And we have installed these units. And it kills 99 percent of COVID in 10 minutes.”

According to experts, it is the type of claim that has little basis in reality. Both the ionization technology on which the system is based and the way it works have limited effectiveness.

“When it comes to COVID-19 transmission, person-to-person transmission among those within 6 feet of each other is driving most of the transmission,” said Dr. Amesh Adalja, principal investigator for the Center. Johns Hopkins University Health Security Officer said. “Any type of ‘air cleaning’ device could not have an impact on this short-range transmission and the video could give attendees a false sense of security.”

Videos with the claim about the air purification system have been removed from the church’s social media accounts.

Tim Bender, CEO and co-founder of IONaer, which makes the air purification systems, emphasized that they had only been tested on “substitutes”, which are viruses similar to the coronavirus.

IONaer’s CleanAir EXP released the results of third-party tests of its system using “air coronavirus test substitutes,” which are viruses similar to but not identical to the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19, on Tuesday. . The study found that it was able to remove 99.9 percent of the coronavirus substitutes in the air that passed through its system.

Bender also clarified that the system is ineffective if people come into close contact with each other.

“There is nothing we can do with someone who coughs or sneezes,” Bender said. “The words we are trying to use is that we add an additional layer of protection against the passage of viruses and bacteria through the area inside buildings. It is just an additional layer of protection. If you are removing the particles, you are removing the magic carpet where they travel. “

Bender said the company had contacted the Food and Drug Administration about the system, but had received no response.

Building managers and event planners face a particular challenge in dealing with the coronavirus. As scientists learn more about how the virus spreads, they have begun to focus on indoor environments where people are often in close proximity.

The problem comes from tiny droplets containing viral particles that are expelled when people speak, cough, or sneeze. These drops can hang in the air and end up infecting other people nearby. And this can happen quickly. So-called “super spread” events, in which one person can infect many others, have become a major focus for scientists trying to understand how the virus spreads.

Three studies published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention since late April examined coronavirus transmissions in such settings: a restaurant in Guangzhou, China, a call center in Seoul, South Korea, and a choir practice in Washington state. In each of the reports, the scientists found that interactions in confined spaces, such as talking and singing, likely contributed to outbreaks among the people who were present.

Dream City Church did not respond to an email and voicemail requesting comment.

Dream City Church in Phoenix on June 22, 2020.Ross D. Franklin / AP

Trump is slated to begin a trip through Arizona on Tuesday, putting him in the middle of a state that is dealing with one of the worst coronavirus outbreaks. He will visit the church Tuesday afternoon, and organizers expect around 3,000 attendees, according to The Arizona Republic.

Experts and even scientists from the Trump administration itself have warned against such events.

Air purification systems, such as the one cited by Dream City Church officials, would likely do little to protect people from contracting the virus from close interactions indoors, according to L. James Lo, an assistant professor of civil engineering. , architectural and environmental at Drexel University.

“The system will clean the air only when it passes through the purifier, which means it helps very little in terms of localized virus transmission from person to person,” Lo said.

If a person is sitting next to someone who has COVID-19 and is generating so-called aerosols by talking or coughing, “and you are there to [an] prolonged period of time, you are likely to remain infected, ”he said.

The National Air Filtration Association did not respond to a request for an interview, but its website states that filtration systems “may be part of a general approach to risk mitigation, but are generally not considered a solution by themselves. No there is direct scientific evidence of benefit, but a reduced exposure can be reasonably inferred based on the ability of some filters to remove particles containing a SARS-CoV-2 virus. “

Air ionizers work by altering the chemical composition of particles in the air, some with high voltages and others producing ozone. The idea is that by changing these properties, systems can filter out potential allergens and other particles in the air.

Although the technology is not new, its effectiveness has been controversial, said William Bahnfleth, a professor of architectural engineering at Penn State University.

“Much of the proof of its performance is in the form of manufacturer-commissioned laboratory studies that are often conducted under conditions that are not representative of actual application conditions,” he said in an email. “Many in the scientific community are skeptical.”