President Trump really wants the coronavirus to go away — not so much because American lives will be saved, but so the economy, and with it his re-election prospects, can rev back up as we head into the meat of 2020. He laid bare his lack of regard for the former on Monday by expressing a desire to scrap recommendations from public-health officials and encourage people to return to work, even though it would mean more lives lost.
But the president’s reckless attitude toward the health of his constituents has been evident throughout the crisis. Last week, Trump endorsed an unproven treatment for COVID-19, both on Twitter and during a press briefing. “HYDROXYCHLOROQUINE & AZITHROMYCIN, taken together, have a real chance to be one of the biggest game changers in the history of medicine,” he wrote. When National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Dr. Anthony Fauci was asked whether there’s evidence hydroxychloroquine could be an effective treatment against COVID-19, he didn’t mince words. “The answer is no,” Fauci said.
This didn’t stop at least two Americans from trying to follow the president’s advice on their own. On Monday night, NBC News reported that an Arizona man died after ingesting chloroquine phosphate, believing it would protect him from COVID-19. He did not ingest the drug in its medicinal form — which can be used to treat malaria — but instead in its form as a fish-tank cleaner. The wife of the deceased man (their names are withheld for privacy) also ingested chloroquine phosphate and is under critical care. “Trump kept saying it was basically pretty much a cure,” she told NBC News.
Woman in ICU: "Trump kept saying it was basically pretty much a cure."
NBC: "What would be your message to the American public?"
Woman: "Oh my God. Don't take anything. Don't believe anything. Don’t believe anything that the President says & his people…call your doctor." https://t.co/C8EiTQQ3r1 pic.twitter.com/UAOXBNsS4t
— Vaughn Hillyard (@VaughnHillyard) March 24, 2020
Even if ingested in its medicinal form, evidence that hydroxychloroquine can help combat COVID-19 is not definitive. Clinical trials are underway to determine whether it could be an effective treatment.
But Fox News is already all in. On her show Monday night, Laura Ingraham brought on a man who says his symptoms dissipated after taking the drug. She later spoke to Dr. Meredith Clement, an LSU infectious-disease expert who has incorporated [hydroxychloroquine] in the “algorithm” by which they treat patients, but noted that it was “too soon to tell” whether it’s effective. “We don’t know and we need further data,” Clement said. “We need to collect the clinical data … to see if we’re going to see much of a benefit.”
Now is a good time to mention that there is no known cure for COVID-19. There are no preventive measures to be taken other than social distancing and good hygiene, and no drug has been approved to treat the disease. President Trump is not a medical professional. Nor is Laura Ingraham. Nor are the hosts of Fox & Friends, who have been offering similar prescriptions. Nor is Sean Hannity, who on Monday read aloud a “regimen” of various drugs he says he received from a New York-area doctor.
Fox hosts have been repeating completely uninformed and untested medical advice on their shows today, listing medications they say people should take.
It's unbelievably reckless and dangerous. pic.twitter.com/InxhtoMpJc
— Lis Power (@LisPower1) March 24, 2020
Please, PLEASE, do not heed any sort of medical advice offered on Fox News. Same goes for anything you may hear — or think you may have heard — on One America News Network, Trump’s new favorite source of flattery. During a recent county-commission meeting in Okeechobee County, Florida, County Commissioner Bryant Culpepper sincerely advocated for blasting a hair dryer up your nose because he said he heard on OANN that doing so would cook the coronavirus to death. “It was a doctor who had his credentials,” Culpepper said of the source of the suggestion. “He has been one of the foremost doctors in studying how this is transmitted. That’s where this came from. But I agree that there is a lot of baloney on social media.”
OANN has denied anyone on any of their channels advocated using a hair dryer to combat the coronavirus. “OANN is aware of a statement made by a municipal official claiming that a hair dryer may kill the coronavirus,” the network wrote in a tweet. “A thorough review of all on-air, social media & website content was conducted. No association between the statements made by the municipal official & @OANN were found.”
Regardless of where he heard about the “cure,” a county commissioner promoting the use of a hair dryer to kill a novel infectious disease in at municipal event is a concerning indicator of how easily misinformation about COVID-19 can spread.
Okeechobee County Commissioner Bryant Culpepper at emergency meeting says you can kill coronavirus by holding a blow dryer up to your nose after he saw it on “reliable source” OANN, warns “there’s a lot of baloney out there on social media” #BecauseFlorida pic.twitter.com/n9dGDBQ4WW
— Billy Corben (@BillyCorben) March 22, 2020
At a previous meeting, Culpepper said his son discovered that the “nano ozone vapor” hunters use to mask their scent kills COVID-19. Culpepper called the discovery a “game changer” and recommended it for at-risk loved ones, as well as the rest of the county commission. “Most of time when you have a problem, and a pandemic is part of it, there is usually a cure or solution to that, and it’s usually technology,” he said.
This is to say that there is a LOT of misinformation out there about what can be done to prevent or treat COVID-19. Not only is the president of the United States one of its chief purveyors, but his continued marginalization of the scientific community also has opened the door for everyone from the Fox News primetime lineup to the Culpepper family to believe they’re just as well-suited to prescribe treatment for a novel infectious disease as public-health officials.
It should go without saying that they are not, and as the grieving Arizona woman who spoke to NBC News on Monday learned in heartbreaking fashion, believing otherwise has deadly consequences.
This post has been updated to include OANN’s denial that anyone on any of their channels advocated using a blow dryer to combat the coronavirus.