Despite a spike in cases, President Trump is expected to gather thousands of people together in Phoenix.
Leaders from the Phoenix megachurch hosting President Donald Trump’s rally Tuesday falsely told the public it is safe to attend thanks to their building’s new air purification system.
Dream City Church’s Pastor Luke Barnett and Chief Financial Officer Brendon Zastrow said in a now-deleted Facebook video that the system, created by Phoenix-based Clean Air EXP, makes the church’s auditorium with a capacity for 3,000 people a safe environment for gathering.
Will Humble, former state health department director, told The Copper Courier systems like these are beneficial for mitigating risk but can’t guarantee people’s safety.
“If there’s two people standing next to each other not wearing masks, and one is infectious and coughs, that HVAC system isn’t going to do anything,” he said.
“It may make some marginal difference in recirculation,” he added. “But it’s not something that provides a high level of protection that can substitute, say, for example, face mask wearing.”
Clean Air EXP issued a statement Tuesday saying there was confusion around claims of what its technology does and that it does not eliminate COVID-19.
Dr. Mike Fisher of the Federation of American Scientists agreed that despite the air purification system, the virus could still be spread in the church. This could happen, he said, by an infected person coughing, sneezing, or talking in close proximity to another person with no barriers, causing the uninfected person to “rapidly” breathe in the virus particles.
“It’s hard to imagine how a system that, according to the company’s website, is ‘added to existing air duct paths,’ would stop person-to-person spread,” Fisher told The Copper Courier.
Turning Point Action, the conservative political action committee sponsoring the event, is requiring participants to agree to a liability waiver when they sign up. Their website states:
“By clicking register below, you are acknowledging that an inherent risk of exposure to COVID-19 exists in any public place where people are present. By attending this convention, you and any guest voluntarily assume all risks related to exposure to COVID-19 and agree not to hold Turning Point Action, their affiliates, Dream City Church, employees, agents, contractors, or volunteers liable for any illness or injury.”
Already in crisis
Humble said things have gotten so bad in the state that a mass gathering can’t kick off a crisis, because there already is one.
“We’ve got so much community spread right now that an event like this is going to make it worse,” Humble said. “But it’s not going to make it demonstrably worse where it’s going to throw us into crisis.”
“The cause of us going off the cliff, if we go off the cliff,” he added, “is because we had very loose standards when we came out of the stay-at-home order that were purely voluntary and prevented cities from doing mitigation measures on their own.”
Humble said he is worried about the rally setting a bad example for the country by implying that the loosening of social distancing and other rules is acceptable.
“I think the biggest issue that it imposes is that it sends a message to other organizations and other entities that want to put together large events that that’s an OK thing to do,” he said.
Technically, Arizona is still in phase one of its reopening plan, meaning people are supposed to avoid groups of more than 10 people. Guidelines from the World Health Organization also recommend that large events like political rallies that were planned in areas where there is an outbreak should be conducted online rather than in-person.
Arizona is currently experiencing one of the largest outbreaks of COVID-19 in the country. On Tuesday, state health officials reported 3,591 new cases being reported in one day.
In total, there have been of 58,179 cases of the coronavirus in Arizona, resulting in 1,384 deaths.