Is this just a dream or is it reality?
The Dream City Church, the megachurch that’s north of Phoenix, Arizona, will be hosting President Donald Trump for a re-election campaign rally tonight. Like Trump’s Tulsa rally last Saturday, there are concerns that one of the attendees at tonight’s gathering will be the Covid-19 coronavirus. However, Luke Barnett, the Senior Pastor, and Brendon Zastrow, the Chief Operations of the Dream City Church had a seemingly dreamy announcement for those attending who aren’t shaped like little balls with spikes.
They announced via a video posted on Facebook and Instagram that their megachurch has installed a new air-purification system. Not just an air-purification system, but one that, according to them, will kill 99.9 percent of the Covid-19 coronavirus that may be in the church. In the words of Borat, wa wa wee wa, that would be very nice.
Although the video has since been taken down from the two social media sites, the Phoenix New Times captured excerpts of the video here:
Again, not nine, not 99 but 99.9%, which is quite a claim. Is this what the world has been waiting for, a technology that can make 99.9% of your worries in a room disappear, assuming that your main concern in the room is the Covid-19 coronavirus? Well, before you air on the side of going to the church without protecting yourself, what’s the science behind this claim?
As you can see in the video, the church installed a Clean AIR EXP system, that’s “based on technology developed by church members.” This system seems to rely on ionization. That’s taking atoms like oxygen atoms, giving them electrical charges, and dispersing them into the air. These electrically charged particles then may act like attendees at a singles mixer, being attracted to oppositely charged substances in the air and trying to bind with them. Some of these substances could be unwanted things such as various allergens, mold, bacteria, and viruses. Binding with these substances could subsequently inactivate and neutralize them. It could also make them larger and heavier so that they drop to the ground or have tougher times getting through air filters.
Sure, such ionization technology could potentially help clean the air in a room. But cleaning the air and getting rid of 99.9% of a very contagious virus are two very different propositions. Reduce and practically eliminate are two very different things. Plus, it’s not even clear yet how well this approach would work against any of the Covid-19 coronaviruses.
A search of PubMed doesn’t reveal any Covid-19 coronavirus-specific peer-reviewed scientific studies on such an air purification approach. The Clean AIR EXP website does include some test reports including one labeled a COVID-Surrogate Aerosol Test and another a COVID-Surrogate Surface Test that supposedly demonstrate the system’s performance. Note the word surrogate, though. They didn’t actually use a Covid-19 coronavirus but instead used a surrogate, the Cystovirus Phi6 (ATCC 21781-B1). As you know, similar is still different. An Elvis impersonator is not Elvis. Watching the movie Snakes on a Train is not same as watching the movie Snakes on a Plane. How would you react if you were told that for your date there would be not a human but a human surrogate? So it’s not very clear how applicable the report’s results would be to the Covid-19 coronavirus.
Moreover, these tests were done in much smaller, more controlled, lab-like settings and not a church where people are going to be yelling “four more years”, “I have done a phenomenal job”, “I am the least racist person,” and stuff like that. Since the church can seat around 3,000 people, there could be at least dozens of people at the rally, depending on what teenage fans of K-pop music may have done over the past week.
To get a sense of of the venue, here are the scenes outside and inside the church before the rally:
Finally, these are reports from a company named CREM Co. Labs and not peer-reviewed scientific publications that have been reviewed and vetted by other reputable scientists. Even if this company were the CREM de la Creme of such testing, there needs to be a full independent review of the methods, approach, and analysis used before any claims about the Covid-19 coronavirus or any dangerous pathogen. So take any results with an air purification system full of salt.
Even if the air purification system were effective against the Covid-19 coronavirus, even if the system were able to effectively clear the air of the virus in ten minutes, as the church leaders claimed, it’s still not clear how it would prevent more direct person-to-person transmission. If you were relying on the ionized particles to do their thing, there would have to be a lot of them in the air, enough to neutralize viruses as soon as they came out of someone’s mouth or nose. In other words, the inside of the church would have to be a sea of ionized particles.
Could an air purification system combined with air circulation be effective enough? Well such an air circulation system would have to immediately pull viruses up, up and away as soon as they left people’s noses and mouths. It would be sort of like a giant vacuum cleaner. It would have to suck a lot, and it would have to constantly suck at the Trump rally. This amount of sucking action at the rally could end up making things uncomfortable such as raising some clothes, neckties, and even hairpieces if present. So it’s not clear how practical or even feasible such a approach would be.
Therefore, the Trump rally at the Dream City Church would still qualify as “highest risk,” which is the highest of the four risk categories listed on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) “Considerations for Events and Gatherings” website. Of note, the Trump campaign is still requiring attendees to sign waivers that are supposed to forfeit their right to sue should they end up getting Covid-19 from this Students for Trump meeting. Therefore, if you are going to attend the rally, it would be a good idea to stay at least six feet away from everyone else, wear face coverings, wash your hands frequently and thoroughly, and disinfect anything before you touch it.
Let’s clear the air. Don’t listen to any claims that some treatment or technology can somehow clear away 99.9% of the Covid-19 coronavirus without seeing that stuff, you know, called scientific evidence. So far, there’s no real evidence that any air purification system can even clear away most of the virus from a room. If you really believe that an air purification system alone is going to protect you against the Covid-19 coronavirus, you would be dreaming indeed.