Republican Senator Ron Johnson is at it again, pushing more COVID misinformation that will likely only contribute to the ongoing pandemic nightmare that seems like it will never end as the new Omicron variant spreads through the U.S. and may be widely bypassing vaccine-granted immunity. During a Wisconsin town hall broadcast online, the right-wing senator claimed that using mouthwash was a “proven” effective treatment for the extremely contagious virus when in reality nothing has been proven and the scant evidence supporting the idea is very preliminary.

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The novel coronavirus is, of course, an airborne virus that can enter one’s body through any orifice including the nose and eyes, and mouthwash only claims to kill specific bacteria that cause tooth decay and bad breath, so we can safely assume that the source of this claim is one of Johnson’s own orifices.

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“By the way, standard gargle, mouthwash, has been proven to kill the coronavirus,” he lied. “If you get it, you may reduce viral replication. Why not try all these things? It just boggles my mind that the NIH continues to tell people, ‘Do nothing, you know, maybe take Tylenol.’”

Viral replication, by the way, does not occur in the mouth but inside of the infected body, typically in the lung cells when it comes to any respiratory-based virus like SARS-CoV-2.

Johnson appeared to be listing a number of things rumored to help people who are already sick with COVID including taking Zinc, which may be a general immune system booster. His claim that the National Institutes of Health only advise people with COVID to take Tylenol is misleading at best. The organization’s website advises people to follow CDC guidelines on steps to take while at home with COVID, which include bed rest and over-the-counter medications designed to control fever and other symptoms.

This is standard for respiratory virus illnesses as there is no proven way for average people sick at home to kill their viruses and evidence that various supplements can help the immune system enough to make a difference is often questionable. More importantly, they recommend keeping in contact with doctors and monitoring blood oxygen levels to watch for dangerous warning signs of severe infection.

Even Listerine itself, which could make tons of money if the claim that its mouthwash killed the COVID virus was at all supported by sufficient scientific evidence, warns on its website that “LISTERINE® Antiseptic is not intended to prevent or treat COVID-19 and should be used only as directed on the product label.” And they put that in bold.

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“Although there are recent lab-based reports (in vitro studies) of some LISTERINE® Mouthwashes having activity against enveloped viruses, including coronavirus, the available data is insufficient, and no evidence-based clinical conclusions can be drawn with regards to the anti-viral efficacy of LISTERINE® Antiseptic mouthwash at this time,” the company statement on COVID reads.

After being called out, rather than retracting his unsupported statement, Johnson doubled down.

This behavior echoes the time that conservatives jumped on preliminary studies, which turned out to be rather dubious and criticized by the scientific community, which suggested that ivermectin had anti-viral properties that could fight COVID. This led to horrific accounts of people defecating out strips of tissue from their own intestines from overdosing on the drug after purchasing it from livestock supply stores and forgetting that horses are bigger than humans.

On the other hand, at least maybe now we’ll have a lot of Republicans with minty fresh breath as they continue to push rumors and falsehoods about COVID until the day it cross-breeds with ebola or something and we can all mercifully shed this mortal coil.

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*First Published: December 9, 2021, 2:52 pm