The Arizona megachurch hosting the Trump event falsely claims that its air purifier kills 99% of COVID-19

Pastors of an Arizona megachurch hosting an event with President Trump on Tuesday say the church’s air filtration system can kill “99.9% of COVID in 10 minutes.” Dream City Church senior pastor Luke Barnett and chief operating officer Brendon Zastro make the wrong claims in a promotional video that’s been circulating online this week. The video has been removed from the church’s Facebook page.

“We have interesting information about what we are doing to fight COVID-19 here at Dream City Church,” says Barnett in the video. Zastro then says the church has installed a system from Clean Air EXP, a Phoenix-based company that uses technology developed by church members.

“We have installed these units and it kills 99.9% of COVID in 10 minutes,” says Zastro.

“When you walk into our auditorium, 99% of COVID is gone, killed, even if it was there in the first place,” says Barnett. “Thank goodness for good technology.”

However, “technology” may be too good to be true. According to Clean Air EXP, the system can remove 99.9% of Coronavirus 229E and Cystovirus Phi6 in-air test substitutes specifically, not COVID-19.

Visit Trump Arizona
Dream City Church, shown Monday, June 22, 2020 in Phoenix, will host the Student Convention for Trump and will receive a visit from President Donald Trump on Tuesday afternoon.

Ross D. Franklin / AP

Jeffrey Siegel, a professor in the Department of Civil and Mineral Engineering at the University of Toronto, said he read the laboratory reports on which the Clean Air EXP results are based and do not reflect how the filtration system would work in a real building.

“My problem with those results, as far as I can tell, because it’s not well described in the test report, they did it in a completely sealed chamber, and that’s not fair evidence,” Siegel told CBS News on Tuesday.

He added that an air filter could be tested in a sealed box in a lab and might seem effective, but when you move it into a building, it could be ineffective. “You can’t just go from the lab test results and say, ‘This is going to work in a building,’ because the building is fundamentally different.”

Siegel said this is the case for testing any air filter, not just this particular device. “When you take the results of a sealed chamber test, you’ve essentially fully stacked the platform in favor of the device, but it’s not realistic, it won’t translate into a real building,” he said.

In addition to the unrealistic tests that were conducted for this filtration system, Siegle said, “There is no filter or air filter in the world that can reduce risk in a crowded indoor environment.”

“Filtering or cleaning the air is not a good way to protect people who are close to each other, because fundamentally, you have to bring the drops containing the virus to the air filter and remove them before they are inhaled or arrive someone else and eventually they end up in your respiratory system. ”

Siegel said the leak has a role, but “it is not a silver bullet, a magical approach.”

While air purifiers can help reduce some airborne contaminants, including viruses in a home or confined space, neither a portable air filter nor an HVAC system is sufficient to protect people from COVID-19. , according to the EPA. “When used in conjunction with other best practices recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, operating an air filter can be part of a plan to protect yourself and your family,” says the EPA.

The CDC also recommends washing your hands, avoiding touching your face, and wearing a mask in public to help decrease the spread of the coronavirus.

In a statement to CBS News, Dream City Church said the filtering system post was intended to inform the congregation “We are doing everything we can to promote a cleaner and safer environment as we resume church services.” .

“We have heard that coronavirus and COVID are used interchangeably. Our statement regarding CleanAir EXP units used the word COVID when we should have said such replacements for coronavirus or COVID,” the statement continues. “We hope to alleviate any confusion that we may have caused.”

The church said it has been directing questions about the filtration system to Clean Air EXP and understands that they “tested with a certified third-party biosecurity laboratory on the best coronavirus substitutes available.”

“The company discovered that its technology leads to a 99.9% elimination of coronavirus substitutes in the air,” the Dream City Church statement read. “Therefore, although they do not eliminate COVID-19, the results of coronavirus replacement tests are important for the future of clean air.”

The church said in the statement that they are proud to be clients of Clean Air EXP.

In a interview With CBS News Radio’s Steven Portnoy on Friday, Dr. Anthony Fauci discussed the “very clear” risk that the coronavirus could spread at mass gatherings like the president’s rally in Oklahoma on Saturday.

Fauci advised to stay away from large crowds. “The best way to protect yourself and prevent the acquisition and spread of infection is to avoid crowds. Avoid crowds. If, in fact, for one reason or another, you feel compelled to do that, which we do not recommend, then use a mask at all times, “Fauci told Portnoy.

Prior to the Tulsa rally, a mix of volunteers and local health authority personnel (including the Tulsa County Health Department) handed out blue surgical masks to attendees and performed non-contact forehead temperature checks under white tents. sterile looking.

Similar security measures will be implemented for Tuesday’s rally in Phoenix. All attendees will have their door temperature checked and there will be hand sanitizing stations throughout the church, city officials said, reports CBS affiliate KPHO.

While the city of Phoenix does have mandatory masks in public places, Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego said this rule will not apply at the Trump event, according to KPHO.

“We are not going to enforce the law during the rally, but we hope that Governor Ducey, who is there, will tell people to wear masks. He believes in masks. He is a great spokesperson, but the best spokesperson would be the president. ” If he told people at the rally, I bet they would, “Gallego said, according to KPHO.

There are 58,179 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Arizona, according to the state department of health. Trump is expected to speak in front of 3,000 people at the rally at Dream City Church.

CBS News has reached out to Clean Air EXP for comment and is awaiting response.