Top L.A. Health Official Calls Trump's Disinfectant Comments "Extraordinarily Dangerous"

Trump with inset of Dr. Barbara Ferrer - Getty-H 2020
OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty Images; OBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images

The county's public health director stood with other leaders Friday in decrying the use of products like Lysol to treat symptoms: "People die from ingesting some of these products."

Though President Donald Trump walked back the controversial comments he made Thursday about the possibility of injecting disinfectants into the human body as a way to knock out the coronavirus, health experts and manufacturers of cleaning products continue to speak out about the potentially fatal danger of attempting such an experiment.

Dr. Barbara Ferrer, director of L.A. County's health department, was asked to respond to Trump's statements Friday afternoon during her daily press briefing, and she acknowledged it as "misinformation that was circulating" since the president made his statement at the White House yesterday.

"Please don't inject, ingest or even put on your body any disinfectant," said Ferrer. "It's extraordinarily dangerous. That's not what the products are meant for and there is no scientific evidence that it would be safe or prevent you from becoming infected."

Trump offered injections as a potential solution after hearing from another official about research that showed the effectiveness disinfectants like bleach and alcohol have in killing the novel coronavirus on surfaces. "I see the disinfectant where it knocks it out in one minute. Is there a way we can do something like that by injection inside or almost a cleaning … it would be interesting to check that," Trump said.

Today, Trump said he was "asking a question sarcastically to reporters like you just to see what would happen."

Ferrer said she'd like to believe that. "I really hope the president was being sarcastic. It really doesn't matter, the most important thing is that people shouldn't use those products for anything other than cleaning," she continued, saying that they are not therapeutic medicines and can be harsh and "extraordinarily dangerous" to the human body. "People die from ingesting some of these products. We want to make sure the public understands that that information was not accurate."

In other news, Ferrer also reported 1,035 newly diagnosed cases for a total of 18,517 positive cases countywide. Ferrer spent much of the rest of Friday's briefing talking about skilled nursing facilities, which are home to more than 40 percent of all fatalities and a growing source of concern for health officials. Currently, there are 293 investigations at facilities where there are at least one or more recorded cases of coronavirus.

The total number of COVID-19 positives across those settings is 5,339 (3,847 residents, 1,492 staff). To date, 365 residents have died and the number is growing every day as COVID-19 has proven to be most fatal in elderly populations and those who face chronic health conditions, segments that typically reside in skilled nursing homes. To help curb future outbreaks, Ferrer announced a new health officer order that will apply to congregate living facilities across the county.

The order limits entry to only staff and residents, thus banning nonessential visitors; suspends communal dining and activities to accommodate ample social distancing; requires surgical masks and personal protective equipment to be worn by staff at all times; residents will be required to wear masks when they are outside their respective rooms; and facilities will be required to conduct COVID-19 testing for both symptomatic and asymptomatic residents and staff.

The order follows the deployment of the California National Guard, which offered assistance in dealing with staffing issues at four skilled nursing facilities in the county. Ferrer acknowledged staffing issues at all nursing homes dealing with significant outbreaks where professionals have had to be quarantined or isolated at home for periods of time to avoid transmitting any illness to residents. Names of the facilities were not given today but according to the Los Angeles Times, those homes include the Motion Picture & Television Fund home in Woodland Hills, Pasadena Meadows Nursing Center in Pasadena, and sites in Hollywood, Gardena and El Monte.

The other chunk of today's press briefing was dedicated to Southern California's current heat wave. Parts of the country are recording temperatures over 90 degrees, where it's expected to hover all weekend in the first truly summer-like weekend in many months.

"It's hot," Ferrer said before offering suggestions of what people can do — and that did not include going to the closed beach or driving to Ventura County, where safer-at-home restrictions have been relaxed. "This is why we live in Southern California. Please feel free to go outside. You can go to your yard, take a walk around your block in your neighborhood."

She said they're not yet ready to relax restrictions here due to the continued high rate of death and positive infections. "We're planning for recovery because we know we're getting closer. If we don't see serious spikes and we do see declines in the number of new cases, we will feel a lot more secure that we can go ahead and start implementing recovery plans. We're hoping that day is coming relatively soon. It's not today."  

Older populations were also a focal point in Sacramento, where Gov. Gavin Newsom at his Friday briefing announced an unprecedented partnership with FEMA that will see the state partner with local restaurants to help provide meals to senior citizens in need. He said the state has more than 5.7 million older Californians, 1.2 million of whom live alone and could be isolated and unable to adequately provide for themselves.

Newsom called the initiative locally driven by relying on small businesses to provide nutritionally balanced meals made using crops from California farmers.

It will also allow restaurants made vulnerable by widespread shutdowns to employ workers and delivery drivers, supplying three meals per day, seven days a week at $66 per day ($16 for breakfast, $17 for lunch, and $28 for dinner). There are eligibility requirements as seniors who qualify must either be economically in need or have been impacted or exposed to COVID-19 in some way.

Newsom also provided statewide coronavirus data, including 93 more deaths, 52 of them recorded in Los Angeles County, which continues to be the epicenter in the state. So far, there have been 848 total deaths in the county and 91 percent of those individuals faced underlying health conditions. "We're completely sorry for your loss and we wish you and your family peace," Ferrer said, offering condolences.