At a briefing in Washington Thursday night, President Donald Trump commented on disinfectant and ultraviolet light.
The briefing featured a Department of Homeland Security official discussing findings from the department’s laboratory that found sunlight, heat, and humidity appear to weaken the the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, a novel coronavirus that emerged from mainland China last year.
Here’s what Bill Bryan said and what Trump said in response. The transcript is courtesy of the White House.
Transcript of Bryan’s Opening Remarks
Good afternoon everybody. My name is Bill Bryan and I lead the Science and Technology Directorate at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Over the last several months, we’ve intensified the Department’s R&D efforts to identify and deliver information that informs our response to COVID-19. S&T is working to identify, develop, deploy, and deploy the tools and information to support our response to this crisis.
As part of our efforts, we’re leveraging the unique capabilities of S&T’s National Biodefense Analysis and Countermeasures Center to study the biology of the COVID-19 virus. This center is a high-biocontainment laboratory located in Frederick, Maryland. It was established in the early 2000s, in response to the Amerithrax attacks, and where we study, characterize, analyze, and develop countermeasures for biological threats to the homeland. We work closely with the CDC, FDA, HHS, and also our Department of Defense colleagues and many others.
Yesterday, I shared the emerging results of our work that we’re doing now with the Coronavirus Task Force. And today, I would like to share certain trends that we believe are important.
If I may have the first slide, please. And while that’s coming up, our most striking observation to date is the powerful effect that solar light appears to have on killing the virus — both surfaces and in the air. We’ve seen a similar effect with both temperature and humidity as well, where increasing the temperature and humidity or both is generally less favorable to the virus.
So let me illustrate with this first slide. If you look to the right, you’ll see that term “half-life,” with a bunch of timestamps on there.
First, let me tell you what a “half-life” is. We don’t measure the virus as far as how long we live on the surface; we have to measure the decay of the virus in terms of its half-life, because we don’t know certain elements. We don’t know how much a person expectorates when he — when he spits — right? — when he sneezes, whatever the case may be. We don’t know how much virus is in there. So it’s — that has a long — a bearing on how long the virus is going to be alive and active. So we measure it in half life because half-life doesn’t change.
So if you look at an 18-hour half-life, what you’re basically saying is that every 18 hours, the virus — it’s the life of the virus is cut in half. So if you start with 1,000 particles of the virus, in 18 hours, you’re down to 500. And 18 hours after that, you’re down to 250, and so on and so forth. That’s important, as I explain in the rest of the chart.
If you look at the first three lines, when you see the word “surface,” we’re talking about nonporous surfaces: door handles, stainless steel. And if you look at the — as the temperature increases, as the humidity increases, with no sun involved, you can see how drastically the half-life goes down on that virus. So the virus is dying at a much more rapid pace, just from exposure to higher temperatures and just from exposure to humidity.
If you look at the fourth line, you inject summer — the sunlight into that. You inject UV rays into that. The same effects on line two — as 70 to 35 degrees with 80 percent humidity on the surface. And look at line four, but now you inject the sun. The half-life goes from six hours to two minutes. That’s how much of an impact UV rays has on the virus.
The last two lines are aerosols. What does it do in the air? We have a very unique capability — I was discussing this with the President prior to coming out; he wanted me to convey it to you — on how we do this. I believe we’re the only lab in the country that has this capability.
But if you can imagine a Home Depot bucket — a five-gallon Home Depot bucket — we’re able to take a particle — and this was developed and designed by our folks at the NBACC. We’re able to take a particle of a virus and suspend it in the air inside of this drum and hit it with various temperatures, various humidity levels, multiple different kinds of environmental conditions, to include sunlight. And we’re able to measure the decay of that virus while it’s suspended in the air. This is how we do our aerosol testing.
We worked with John Hopkin Applied Physics Lab, and we actually developed a larger drum to do actually more testing. And it’s four times the size of that. So this is the capability that we bring to this effort.
So, in summary, within the conditions we’ve tested to date, the virus in droplets of saliva survives best in indoors and dry conditions. The virus does not survive as well in droplets of saliva. And that’s important because a lot of testing being done is not necessarily being done, number one, with the COVID-19 virus, and number two, in saliva or respiratory fluids.
And thirdly, the virus dies the quickest in the presence of direct sunlight under these conditions. And when you — when you look at that chart, look at the aerosol as you breathe it; you put it in a room, 70 to 75 degrees, 20 percent humidity, low humidity, it lasts — the half-life is about an hour. But you get outside, and it cuts down to a minute and a half. A very significant difference when it gets hit with UV rays.
And, Mr. President, while there are many unknown links in the COVID-19 transmission chain, we believe these trends can support practical decision making to lower the risks associated with the virus.
If I can have my next slide.
And when that — while that comes up, you’ll see a number of some practical applications. For example, increasing the temperature and humidity of potentially contaminated indoor spaces appears to reduce the stability of the virus. And extra care may be warranted for dry environments that do not have exposure to solar light.
We’re also testing disinfectants readily available. We’ve tested bleach, we’ve tested isopropyl alcohol on the virus, specifically in saliva or in respiratory fluids. And I can tell you that bleach will kill the virus in five minutes; isopropyl alcohol will kill the virus in 30 seconds, and that’s with no manipulation, no rubbing — just spraying it on and letting it go. You rub it and it goes away even faster. We’re also looking at other disinfectants, specifically looking at the COVID-19 virus in saliva.
This is not the end of our work as we continue to characterize this virus and integrate our findings into practical applications to mitigate exposure and transmission. I would like to thank the President and thank the Vice President for their ongoing support and leadership to the department and for their work in addressing this pandemic. I would also like to thank the scientists, not only in S&T and the NBACC, but to the larger scientific and R&D community.
Thank you very much.
Transcript of Remarks From Trump and Bryan
TRUMP: Thank you very much. So I asked Bill a question that probably some of you are thinking of, if you’re totally into that world, which I find to be very interesting. So, supposing we hit the body with a tremendous — whether it’s ultraviolet or just very powerful light — and I think you said that that hasn’t been checked, but you’re going to test it. And then I said, supposing you brought the light inside the body, which you can do either through the skin or in some other way, and I think you said you’re going to test that too. It sounds interesting.
BRYAN: We’ll get to the right folks who could.
TRUMP: Right. And then I see the disinfectant, where it knocks it out in a minute. One minute. And is there a way we can do something like that, by injection inside or almost a cleaning. Because you see it gets in the lungs and it does a tremendous number on the lungs. So it would be interesting to check that. So, that, you’re going to have to use medical doctors with. But it sounds — it sounds interesting to me.
So we’ll see. But the whole concept of the light, the way it kills it in one minute, that’s — that’s pretty powerful.
REPORTER: When you started your presentation, you described this as an emerging result. Does this mean your study is conclusive? Is there more work to do?
BRYAN: We’re continuing with that. For example, on the aerosol side, you notice the figures were 20 percent humidity. We’re looking at higher humidity levels. We would expect that would even have a greater impact on the virus. We’re looking at other types of disinfectants. And — and so we’re — this is a — as a scientific community, we’re continuing to study the virus to understand its characteristics.
REPORTER: Mr. Bryan, can you explain why some hotspots we’ve seen in the U.S. are hot and humid, like New Orleans, for example?
BRYAN: Let me explain — if you look at the coronavirus as a chain with many links, what we’ve done through our study is we’ve identified some of the weak links in that chain, that the virus — the transmission of the virus depends upon. We identified that heat and humidity is a weakness in that chain. We’ve identified that sunlight, solar light, UV rays is a weakness in that chain. That doesn’t take away the other activities — the guidance from the White House, the guidance from the CDC and others on the actions and steps that people need to take to protect themselves.
This is just another — another tool in our tool belt, right? Another — another weapon in the fight that we can add to it and, in the summer, we know that summer-like conditions are going to create an environment where the transmission can be decreased. And that’s an opportunity for us to get ahead.
REPORTER: But I — just, can I ask about — the President mentioned the idea of cleaners, like bleach and isopropyl alcohol you mentioned. There’s no scenario that that could be injected into a person, is there? I mean —
BRYAN: No, I’m here to talk about the findings that we had in the study. We won’t do that within that lab and our lab. So —
TRUMP: It wouldn’t be through injection. We’re talking about through almost a cleaning, sterilization of an area. Maybe it works, maybe it doesn’t work. But it certainly has a big effect if it’s on a stationary object.
REPORTER: Mr. Bryant, are we simplifying it too much by saying that it’d be better with the warmer weather and the sun coming out more and more, that people would be outside than staying inside their home, confined to the four walls of their house?
BRYAN: It would be irresponsible for us to say that we feel that the summer is just going to totally kill the virus and that if it’s a free-for-all and that people ignore those guidelines. That is not the case.
We have an opportunity, though, to get ahead with what we know now and factor that into the decision making for what opens and what doesn’t.
TRUMP: But so are you saying, on surfaces, the heat, the hot summer, and whatever other conditions — humidity and lack of humidity — that that would have an impact so that on surfaces, where it can be picked up, it will die fairly quickly in the summer, whereas in the winter, it wouldn’t die so quickly?
BRYAN: Yes, Mr. President. When it’s exposed to UV rays — take playground equipment, for example: The UV rays hitting a piece of playground equipment will kill the virus when it hits that — when it hits on the playground equipment. But underneath, where the sun does not get, if someone touched that and had it on their hands, it could still be there, right? Because it has to be in direct light of the UV rays.
TRUMP: If it’s on somebody’s hands, right?
TRUMP: And they haven’t touched their face and all of the things that we’ve all been —
BRYAN: If it’s exposed to the sun, it’ll —
TRUMP: I know, but if they’re outside — right — and their hands are exposed to the sun, will that kill it as though it were on a piece of metal or something else?
BRYAN: Not — I don’t want to say it will at the same rate, because it’s a non-porous surface. But what we do know — what we do know is that we looked at the worst-case scenario, and the virus lives longer on non-porous surfaces. So porous surfaces, it doesn’t look quite as long. So, in theory, what you said is correct.
TRUMP: This is sort of semi-non-porous, right? This, right?
BRYAN: That’s true. Yes, Mr. President.
REPORTER: Mr. Bryan, how much more research — how much more time would it take to have conclusive results that could be used here? You said these were emerging results?
BRYAN: We — we first were able to receive the virus back in February, is when we started testing. And it is a science-based approach. Science is a process; the doctor can attest to that. It doesn’t necessarily line up with goals and targets and other things. It is what it is. But we are now starting to get results. And — and we’re — every week or two weeks, we’re starting to find out something new and something different.
And in talking to the task force and the Vice President, he’s already asked us to come to him every time we come up with some new discoveries that we could be — that we could share to the public.
REPORTER: Yes, Mr. President, after the presentation we just saw about the heat and the humidity, is it dangerous for you to make people think they would be safe by going outside in the heat, considering that so many people are dying in Florida, considering that this virus has had an outbreak in Singapore, places that are hot and are humid?
TRUMP: Here we go. The new — the new headline is: “Trump Asks People to go Outside. That’s Dangerous.” Here we go. Same old group. You ready? I hope people enjoy the sun. And if it has an impact, that’s great. I’m just hearing this — not really for the first time. I mean, there’s been a rumor that — you know, a very nice rumor — that you go outside in the sun, or you have heat and it does have an effect on other viruses.
But now we get it from one of the great laboratories of the world. I have to say, it covers a lot more territory than just this. This is — this is probably an easy thing, relatively speaking, for you.
I would like you to speak to the medical doctors to see if there’s any way that you can apply light and heat to cure. You know — but if you could. And maybe you can, maybe you can’t. Again, I say, maybe you can, maybe you can’t. I’m not a doctor. But I’m like a person that has a good you know what.
REPORTER: But, sir, you’re the President.
TRUMP: Deborah, have you ever heard of that? The heat and the light, relative to certain viruses, yes, but relative to this virus?
DR. [DEBORAH] BIRX: Not as a treatment. I mean, certainly fever —
DR. BIRX: — is a good thing. When you have a fever, it helps your body respond. But not as — I’ve not seen heat or (inaudible).
TRUMP: I think it’s a great thing to look at. I mean, you know. Okay?
REPORTER: But respectfully, sir, you’re the President. And people tuning into these briefings, they want to get information and guidance and want to know what to do.
TRUMP: So, are you ready? Are you ready? Are you ready? It’s just a suggestion from a brilliant lab by a very, very smart, perhaps brilliant, man. He’s talking about sun. He’s talking about heat. And you see the numbers. So that’s it; that’s all I have. I’m just here to present talent. I’m here to present ideas, because we want ideas to get rid of this thing. And if heat is good and if sunlight is good, that’s a great thing as far as I’m concerned.