Maryland’s Republican governor says state officials received “hundreds of calls” from residents asking about ingesting disinfectants following Donald Trump’s dangerous suggestion that scientists investigate the chemicals’ potential for treating coronavirus.
Governor Larry Hogan, one of only a few Republicans to have spoken out against Mr Trump during the pandemic, urged the US president instead to “get the facts out there” during what had until the weekend been daily White House press briefings.
“We had hundreds of calls in our hotline here in Maryland about people asking about injecting or ingesting these disinfectants, which is, you know, hard to imagine that people thought that that was serious,” Mr Hogan told CBS News on Sunday.
“But what people actually were thinking about this, was this something you could do to protect yourself?”
Mr Hogan’s admission follows similar reports from New York health authorities, who said there had been a spike in possible bleach exposure cases in the 18 hours following Mr Trump’s now-infamous Thursday press briefing.
In it, he mused about the potential of disinfectants injected inside the body to treat Covid-19.
“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,” Mr Trump said.
The comments prompted health experts and brands like Dettol to warn of the potentially lethal dangers of ingesting household cleaning products.
“I think it’s critical that the president of the United States, when people are really scared and in the middle of this worldwide pandemic, that in these press conferences that we really get the facts out there,” Mr Hogan said.
“And unfortunately, some of the messaging has not been great.”
Other Trump officials and allies, however, tried to play down Mr Trump’s misinformation, including Dr Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator.
In an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper on Sunday, Dr Birx expressed frustration the president’s comments about injecting disinfectant were still being debated in the media.
“It bothers me that this is still in the news cycle because I think we’re missing the bigger pieces of what we need to be doing as an American people to continue to protect one another,” she said.
Amid reported urgings from his advisers that his false and dangerous claims are hurting his election chances, Mr Trump skipped a Saturday briefing altogether following a short Friday session in which he took no questions.
He suggested the hiatus would continue when he tweeted on Saturday they were “not worth the time and effort”.