A Department of Homeland Security study shows the effects of sunlight, heat and humidity on the half life of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. USA TODAY
LAS VEGAS – Days after facing national blowback for pushing the reopening of Las Vegas, Mayor Carolyn Goodman is now suggesting Southern Nevada’s triple-digit desert temperatures will be enough to slow the spread of COVID-19.
“Although it has not been clearly determined as to the effect that extreme warmth will have on the virus, it is assumed that it shall deter its ferocity,” Goodman said in a statement on Twitter Friday afternoon. “We certainly are looking forward to having our desert heat provide that required substantiation.”
Goodman’s statement follows President Donald Trump’s suggestion that scientists study whether sunlight or disinfectants could be used to treat coronavirus patients, a proposal that prompted alarm from health experts who warned Americans against embracing unproven remedies.
The mayor pitched Las Vegas as a city with summers hot enough to stagger the deadly respiratory virus. “Our hot summer coupled with our unique economy compel us to be at the forefront of America’s ‘reopening,’” Goodman said.
Yet science does not support the theories touted by the president and mayor.
Dr. Jesse Goodman, the former chief scientist of the FDA and now a Georgetown University professor and attending physician, told USA TODAY the amount of heat and light needed to kill the virus would be harmful to cells within the body and was “not something we now have evidence to support.”
“The virus is predominantly inside cells, and the amount of light or heat that you would have to deliver would be toxic to the cells as well,” he said.
Ultraviolet light is used to sterilize hospital equipment, he noted, but the level of light is “toxic to human cells, and in fact people can’t be in those rooms when they’re being sterilized with those devices.”
President Trump offered no scientific explanation after suggesting the deadly coronavirus may “go away in April.” USA TODAY
The genesis of Trump’s remarks was a Department of Homeland Security study that found the lifespan of the virus on a surface or in the air could be significantly reduced by exposure to sunlight, humidity and other factors. Trump invited a Homeland Security official to brief White House reporters about the study on Thursday.
“Our most striking observation to date is the powerful effect that solar light appears to have on killing the virus, both on surfaces and in the air,” said Bill Bryan, an undersecretary of science and technology at the Department of Homeland Security.
But Bryan stressed the findings of the DHS study were not so conclusive that Americans should abandon social distancing guidelines promoted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and enforced by state orders across the country.
He said it would be “irresponsible for us to say that we feel that the summer is just going to totally kill the virus.”
Trump drew headlines in February for suggesting just that during a campaign rally in New Hampshire. “You know in theory when it gets a little warmer, it miraculously goes away,” he said then. “Hope that’s true.”
At the White House on Thursday, he reminded reporters he had made the prediction and implied that the study confirmed his theory.
“I once mentioned that maybe it’ll go away with heat and light,” the president said Thursday. “And people didn’t like that statement very much.”
Mayor Goodman faced national criticism after an interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper, in which she urged the reopening of Las Vegas and called the host an “alarmist.”
Goodman suggested that Las Vegas become “a control group” city to test how relaxing restrictions would affect residents.
“I offered to be a control group and I was told by our statistician you can’t do that because people from all parts of southern Nevada come in to work in the city,” Goodman said. “We would love to be that placebo side so you have something to measure against.”
At one point, Cooper displayed a diagram that showed how the coronavirus could spread in a restaurant in China.
“This isn’t China, this is Las Vegas, Nevada,” Goodman said in response to the diagram.
Cooper described Goodman’s statement as “really ignorant.”
Contributing: John Fritze, David Jackson, Nicholas Wu, USA TODAY.
Ed Komenda writes about Las Vegas for the Reno Gazette Journal and USA Today Network. Do you care about democracy? Then support local journalism by subscribing to the Reno Gazette Journal right here.
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