On Thursday evening, the maker of Lysol disinfectant spray issued a warning that “under no circumstances” should anyone drink or inject their their product to kill coronavirus. This warning did not come as a result of a anonymous Instagram post or from a tragic experiment by a fourth grader. Lysol was forced to warn people not to guzzle or inject cleaning fluid because that was exactly the cure that Donald Trump suggested during his Thursday coronavirus press rally.
On Thursday, Donald Trump at first seemed to have made a simple mistake. He mixed up the coronavirus and vampires. Having learned that ultraviolet light can be used to disinfect surfaces, a fact that was apparently new to Trump, he went on to ponder—live, in front of the nation—whether exposing people to “ultraviolet or just a very powerful light" might cure COVID-19, especially if there was a way to get the light “inside the body.” But before sunbed salesmen could even start digging up the promo material, Trump had an even better idea. He genuinely suggested that people should be injected with “disinfectant.”
Honestly, this isn’t a stupid question … if you’re six. At some point, everyone probably makes this kind of association between “if this is good there, is it also good there?” That stage of development in which children build on concepts such as object permanence and the development of symbolic thought to engage in constructing a mental model of how the world operates usually happens around the age of seven. It’s part of why children at that age tend to be full of questions as they fill in the gaps in their model. Part of this process also involves pulling together a moral framework. So … Trump obviously missed the entire step.
This is, of course, not the first time that Trump has used his coronavirus self-love session to pass along worse-than-dubious medical advice. Under the always reassuring catchphrase, “What do you have to lose?” Trump has for weeks been pressing Americans to dose themselves with malaria drug chloroquine, calling it “a game changer” in fighting COVID-19. When first studies began indicating that chloroquine wasn’t doing the trick, Trump talked up combining that drug with the antibiotic azithromycin.
Malaria is caused by a single-celled plasmodium. Azithromycin kills bacteria. No one has described a mechanism by which either could have any effect on COVID-19 which, after all, is caused by a virus. It’s baked into the name.
Trials on the use of chloroquine and azithromycin have now been suspended because both drugs cause heart issues. Chloroquine, at the levels that are being used in this instance, can also cause blindness. When it comes to their effectiveness against COVID-19, in at least one study, people who took Trump’s wonder drug died at a rate higher than those who did not. Which shouldn’t be surprising, since the number one co-morbidity factor for COVID-19 is not lung issues, but heart issues. Trump was prescribing a drug cocktail that puts a huge strain on the heart to fight a disease … that puts a huge strain on the heart.
Then there was the point where Trump suggested that maybe we should just give Americans “a really strong flu vaccine.” Because Trump clearly doesn’t understand how vaccines work. That one also came live during the daily coronavirus show, while actual medical experts sit back and kept the lips sealed.
All this comes after Trump delivered his own self diagnosis of his medical skills. After once again reminding people that he had a “super genius” uncle who was an engineer—Trump’s go-to explanation for why he’s qualified to speak on any complex subject—Trump declared that “People are really surprised I understand this stuff.” He went on to say "Maybe I have natural ability.” But the Thursday advice may be the real capper in the career for Donald Trump, M.D. After all, it’s not every press event that can have the FDA scrambling to warn people not to mainline bleach.
On Friday, the United States has already passed 50,000 dead and will hit 900,000 cases by day’s end. Not all of that illness and death could have been prevented by having someone in the White House who operated above a six-year-old level, but a hell of a lot of them could. Even so, it’s probably worth running a separate tally—one that just records the number of people directly killed by taking Trump’s “medical advice.”
Joe Biden will not tell Americans to inject themselves with Clorox or try to cure disease with a tanning bed. There. No more research is necessary for the fall campaign.