The Arizona megachurch hosting the Trump rally falsely claims its air filter kills “99.9%” of COVID-19

Disease experts rejected claims by an Arizona megachurch to host President Donald Trump on Tuesday that its new air filtration system is capable of killing 99.9% of the new coronavirus.

Brendon Zastrow, CFO of Dream City Church, and Pastor Luke Barnett posted a video promoting the CleanAir EXP filter prior to Trump’s visit.

“When you walk into our auditorium, 99.9% of COVID is gone, if it was there in the first place,” Zastrow said in the video obtained by TMZ.

“It was technology developed by some members of our church,” added Barnett. “And it kills 99.9% of COVID in 10 minutes … It is the ionization of the air. COVID cannot live in that environment.”

However, experts cautioned that the claim was false.

“This is absurd and will not protect you,” Matthew Scotch, an epidemiologist at Arizona State University, told The Daily Beast.

“What happens with demonstrations, for example, is that people are very close to each other. So even if they have a filtration system, if this person coughs on that person, that person will clearly get sick.” Dr. Murtaza Akhter said. , an emergency physician at the University of Arizona, told local AZFamily news outlet. “There is no way for that particle to leak or whatever it is called.”

CleanAir EXP stated on its website Monday night that its filter “removes 99.9% of the coronavirus in the air in less than 10 minutes.”

There are numerous types of coronaviruses. The website also claimed that the system was tested on an “active coronavirus 229E test substitute”.

The Daily Beast noted that “coronavirus 229E causes symptoms of the common cold but is much less deadly than SARS-CoV-2.”

After the media outlet asked about the claim, company president Jerry McGuire told The Daily Beast that his website had been updated to say that the system can “safely remove 99.9% of viruses and bacteria “instead of 99.9% of the coronavirus.

“The new statement also stated that the company tested its filter on the phi6 cystavirus as a second test substitute for the new coronavirus. The phi6 cystavirus is a popular pathogen for laboratory use,” the outlet reported. “But even if the CleanAir EXP filter removes some pathogens from the air, the process by which it does so can still leave people exposed to possible infection.”

Scientists accused the company of making false claims in its marketing.

“This is not ‘removing’ the virus and does not mean that the virus has become non-infectious,” Herek Clack, an environmental engineer at the University of Michigan, told The Media. “Perhaps the most damning criticism is that 99.9% removal in 10 minutes is almost certainly a test where the device is placed in a room, the room is filled with viral sprays, and once the device is turned on, it ‘drains’ the aerosol air. That scenario does not reflect what happens if people are present. “

Technology cannot counteract the spread of the coronavirus, he added.

“If one or more people are present, and one or more of them are removing the virus, this technology is not strong enough to protect people in their vicinity, and the amount of virus they are removing replaces the virus that is being drained. ” ‘- sort of like emptying a tub with the faucet still running, “he said.” The result will be a slower net removal of viruses from the air than 10 minutes, or no net removal or, in the extreme case, a net increase in aerosols. virals. “

A 2015 study by researchers at the University of Minnesota concluded that the effectiveness of air filters on viruses varies widely.

“The distance to the ion source, the type of pathogen and the size of the particles influenced the removal efficiency,” the authors said.

Akhter raised ethical questions about the church’s leadership and called his claims “irresponsible”.

“And to say something to your congregation … like, ‘Are you going to be completely safe when people die?'” Akhter questioned. “I mean, I’m on duty now. I just walked away for a minute. I literally see people who get sick and end up dying.”

Arizona has seen COVID-19 cases explode since the state’s reopening. Maricopa County, where Trump’s speech is scheduled, is one of the 10 most affected areas in the United States, according to data from John’s Hopkins University.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have found that the virus can spread very quickly in church settings.

Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego, a Democrat, warned that the Trump church rally “is neither authorized nor permitted by the city of Phoenix, as the city does not allow political events.”

“Furthermore, it does not meet current CDC guidelines during COVID-19,” he said in a statement, adding that he does not believe that “an event of this magnitude can be safely held, particularly when Arizona sees an increase in cases. of COVID “.

Gallego said the church had promised to screen attendees for fevers and distribute masks, urging Trump to wear one.

“We have seen tremendous compliance with the mask ordinance that went into effect this weekend. Everyone who attends tomorrow’s event, particularly any elected official, should set an example for residents by wearing a mask,” he said. “This includes the president.”