Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich sent a “cease and desist” letter to the Phoenix megachurch that assured people attending President Donald Trump’s speech this week that its air filtration system killed “99% of COVID.”
“The (Attorney General’s Office) is aware of no scientific research or public health authority that has certified any kind of air treatment product that universally prevents, at all or at any distance, COVID-19 infections,” according to the letter, sent Thursday to Dream City Church’s senior pastor, Luke Barnett.
Brnovich’s office is giving the church until Monday to delete all claims about the air filtration system.
The AG’s office also ordered Dream City Church to preserve all documents related to rentals going back six months “in anticipation of possible consumer fraud litigation.”
The 3,000-seat church is often rented to outside groups, as it was on Tuesday for Trump’s speech.
A similar letter was sent to the maker of the church’s air filtration system, Clean Air EXP.
The Trump event, sponsored by Students For Trump, was attended by about 3,000 people, few of them wearing masks. It came just days after the Phoenix City Council mandated that face masks be worn in public places.
The gathering occurred as Arizona battled one of the largest COVID outbreaks in the country.
At a news conference Thursday, Gov. Doug Ducey defended Trump’s visit and the mass gathering as an constitutionally supported exercise of freedom of speech. Ducey was present at the speech, wearing a mask.
Two days before the Trump event, Dream City Pastor Barnett claimed in a Facebook video that the church had installed air purification units that could virtually eliminate the coronavirus in a matter of minutes.
“When you come into our auditorium, 99% of COVID is gone, killed - if it was there in the first place,” Barnett said.
“You can know when you come here you’ll be safe and protected. Thank God for great technology and thank God for being proactive.”
The video was taken down late Monday after the pastor’s claims about the air filtration system were challenged by infectious disease experts.
On Wednesday, the day after the Trump speech, the company that makes the air filtration system backed away from its own claims that the system eliminates “99.9 percent” of COVID-19.
CleanAir EXP provided this statement Friday on the AG's office investigation:
“We are committed to developing and providing advanced air and surface purification systems for homes and businesses. No air purification system, including ours, can universally prevent coronavirus (including COVID-19) infections. On June 23, we updated our website to further emphasize the coronavirus surrogates used in our laboratory testing and made all lab reports available. We encourage following hygiene guidelines in the manner ordered or suggested by government authorities.”
CleanAir uses a lab that tests equipment with a coronavirus surrogate - a virus connected to the common cold. There is no approved industry standard for coronavirus testing.
Dream City Church hasn't responded to a request for comment.
On Wednesday, Dream City posted a "clarification" on its web site:
"On Sunday we made a post for our congregation to inform them we are doing everything we can to foster the cleanest, safest environment as we resume church services. We have heard Coronavirus and COVID used interchangeably. Our statement regarding the CleanAir EXP units used the word COVID when we should have said Coronavirus or COVID surrogates. We hope to alleviate any confusion we may have caused."