Dream City Church, the north Phoenix megachurch set to host a Donald Trump rally on June 23, claims it has solved the pandemic problem in its auditorium, making it safe for anyone who wants to attend.
…Senior Pastor Luke Barnett and Chief Operations Officer Brendon Zastrow announce happily that the church has installed a new air-purification system that kills 99.9 percent of the coronavirus.
.. those who do wish to attend won’t have to worry about that virus that’s going around, Barnett and Zastrow say.
“We’ve installed Clean Air EXP,” Zastrow says. “We have a local Arizona company. It was a technology developed by some members of our church. And we’ve installed these units. And it kills 99 percent of COVID within 10 minutes.”
The system achieves this bit of magic with air “ionization,” a word that the pair mangle as they try to pronounce it.
“So when you come into our auditorium, 99 percent of COVID is gone,” Barnett says. “So you can know when you come down here, you’ll be safe and protected.”
…Clean Air EXP’s website states that its home system takes a few hours to purify the air: “Most homes see a 90% reduction of particulates and contaminants within 4 hours, and 99.8% reduction in 6 hours or less.”
A larger, commercial system can purify more air than a home unit, presumably. But it’s hard to see how 99 percent of COVID-19 could be eliminated from the church auditorium before people arrive. Also, saying attendees would be “safe and protected” when they come to the rally overstates the ability of any air-purifying system to prevent transmission by infected people in a crowd.
Noting that “the church has indicated that they will be handing out masks to event goers and taking temperatures upon check-in,”
Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego issued a statement on Monday saying she still doesn’t believe “an event of this magnitude can be held safely,” particularly with case numbers spiking in the city and elsewhere in Arizona.
Dr. Philip Tierno, a clinical professor of pathology at New York University, told Business Insider that “ions produce a chemical reaction on the cell membrane surface that inactivates the virus… It can reduce 99.9% of microbes in a matter of minutes.”
Reached by New Times, Dr. Tierno said the concept has to be put into context, and that no system can protect someone against an infected person sneezing in the seat next to them.
“The short answer to your question is NO, you will ABSOLUTELY NOT BE SAFE AND PROTECTED. When you are dealing with hundreds or thousands of people in an AUDITORIUM, some of whom will carry the virus you WILL NOT BE absolutely PROTECTED,” Dr. Tierno, using all-caps to help make his points, wrote in an email.
“BPI will help over time to reduce numbers of virus BUT NOT ABSOLUTELY eradicate it without doing the aforementioned,” he said. “I would advise you not to present FALSE hope to attendees by spreading false statements.”
Jeffrey Siegal, Professor of Civil Engineering at the University of Toronto who specializes in filtration, indoor air quality, and ventilation, expressed skepticism about Dream City Church’s claims after looking at Clean Air EXP’s website.
“This thing is not going to do anything in terms of protecting people in that space. Period,” he said. “We’re in the midst of this quite serious pandemic and health situation, and the last thing people need is false information about air cleaning technology.”
“It is true that you can build a system — and we’ve had them for decades — that will scrub the air going through the system of 99.99 percent of germs, including viruses, depending on how it works,” said David Weber, medical director at the University of South Carolina Hospitals’ Departments of Hospital Epidemiology (Infection Prevention). “But that doesn’t prove that, at the floor level, it’s going to reduce your infection risk. That’s a separate question.”
New Times staff writer Josh Kelety contributed to this article.