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Former Republican politician Rick Perry held a nearly hourlong press conference at the Texas state Capitol in Austin on Monday to promote air filtration products made by a company where he’s on the board as an alternative to masks to protect against COVID.
Houston-based Integrated Viral Protection (IVP) makes air filtration products it claims “can kill COVID-19 instantly in a single pass of air.” Faced with a fight over mandating masks in school in his home state, Perry insists he’s not anti-masks but just wants parents to be able to make decisions for themselves, he told the Houston Chronicle.
As Texas deals with a surge of coronavirus cases second only to last winter’s peak, which have overwhelmed the state’s hospitals, Gov. Greg Abbott has refused to rescind a May executive order preventing local governments and school boards from implementing mask mandates.
“I appreciate the politics that’s being played out there, but this is about getting our kids back in school,” Perry said. “Allowing them to have that interaction without masks on their face so they can see those reflections. They learn at a very early age those facial contortions, the smiles, the frowns. So it’s very important that we don’t send a message every day: ‘You’ve got to have a mask on if you’re going to go to our schools.’”
“This is the way to do it,” he added.
Perry was joined by Texas legislators, including Rep. Phil King. “We hope that some of this money that’s coming down can be steered toward school districts and other institutions, public institutions, to try to purchase this type of equipment,” King said at the press conference.
The CDC has recommended improving building ventilation to reduce the spread of COVID-19, including using “portable high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) fan/filtration systems to enhance air cleaning.” A peer-reviewed study by researchers from the University of Houston and the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston found last year that the nickel-foam heated filters made by IVP are “capable of effectively catching and killing airborne SARS-CoV-2.”
IVP devices have so far been installed in more than 150 Texas schools and more than 100 medical facilities and nursing homes, according to the Corpus Christi Caller Times.
“I can’t imagine starting school last week without these machines in our buildings,” Slidell independent school district (ISD) superintendent Taylor Williams told KXAN. “The confidence it gave our teachers and our parents, especially now that this new variant is impacting kids a little differently.” (Just 30 percent of residents are vaccinated in Wise County, where the district is located, according to the New York Times.)
Perry said he’d spoken to his successor and other governors like Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis “who have been criticized about their positions on masks” about the product but denied that he was against masks in schools, just the mandates which make them useful and effective.
Perry was a three-term governor of Texas, a two-time Republican presidential candidate, and later the secretary of energy for most of former President Donald Trump’s term in office. Perry left the Department of Energy in December 2019, alongside his involvement in the Ukraine scandal and Trump’s first impeachment inquiry. Since leaving office, Perry has rejoined the board of directors at dental insurance company MCNA Dental as well as the board of Energy Transfer LP, which owns a controlling interest in the Dakota Access Pipeline.
Perry was asked by reporters about his investment in the company but declined to elaborate other than acknowledging he had a “part” in the company, adding, “That’s not your business. I’m not a public official anymore.”