Great news from the Phoenix church where President Donald Trump is scheduled to address a large crowd on Tuesday amid a COVID-19 spike in the area: You’re safe here!
That’s the word from the senior pastor and chief operations officer of Dream City Church, whose Phoenix location will host the President and a long list of GOP stars, including two governors and several members of Congress, for a “Students for Trump” event that could draw 3,000 people.
“When you come into our auditorium, 99% of COVID is gone! Killed! If it was there in the first place. So you can know when you come here you’ll be safe and protected,” Dream City Church Senior Pastor Luke Barnett said in a Facebook video on Sunday, standing alongside the church’s COO.
“Thank God for great technology and thank God for being proactive!” Barnett added.
Why the confidence amid a global pandemic? Well, it’s the church’s new air purification system. Experts have dismissed the notion that air purifiers alone can eliminate the risk of COVID-19. But why let that get in the way of a heartwarming story?
“We’ve installed these units, and it kills 99.9% of COVID within 10 minutes — from independent testing,” church COO Brendan Zastrow said in the same Facebook video Sunday.
“Ionization? Is that what it is?” Barnett prodded.
“Ionization of the air,” Zastrow agreed. “And it takes particulates out, and COVID cannot live in that environment.”
TMZ first reported on the church’s claims.
But the church might not want to hang its hopes on air purifiers, cautioned Linsey Marr, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Virginia Tech who studies the airborne transmission of infectious disease.
“They can reduce the background level, but that doesn’t help when we’re in close proximity to others,” she told TPM.
In other words, unless every rally attendee has their own personal purification system, the church isn’t going to stop 99.9% of coronavirus, she said.
“This claim has not been demonstrated in any peer-reviewed independent forum that I am aware of,” added Jeffrey Siegel, a professor of civil engineering at the University of Toronto who specializes in air quality.
Speaking generally, Siegel said manufacturers often “take idealized lab results and assume the same performance in a real building, when in fact, for every air cleaning device, in-situ performance is very different from lab performance.”
The church and Students for Trump have faced criticism for hosting the event given the recent spike of COVID-19 in Arizona. Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego (D) on Sunday urged Trump to consider “whether it’s appropriate to have this event in Phoenix while we are increasing the amount of COVID in our community” — but she said the city would not be “focused” on enforcing its recently instituted mask rule at the rally.
CleanAir EXP, the company whose filtration system the church said it had installed, writes on its website that the product “eliminates 99.9% of coronavirus from the air in less than 10 minutes,” noting that a lab analysis was performed with a “surrogate” virus. The company didn’t return TPM’s request for comment.
“It may kill [coronavirus] within 10 minutes, but it has to get there first,” Marr said of the purification system.
Marr pictured two attendees at the Tuesday event, one infected with COVID-19 but not showing any symptoms, and the other healthy. In order for the air purification system to to work, she said, the droplets coming from the infected person’s mouth would have to travel through the purification system before the healthy neighbor breathed them in — an unlikely feat in a large, crowded space.
“When I’m in a crowd and I’m close to people, I’m going to end up breathing their exhalations before they have a chance to get to that purifier and come back,” she said, adding that no air purification system would be able to prevent transmission “between people who are in a crowded environment.”
The only hope on that front, she added, is “if they get pranked again” and no one actually shows up to the event.