- Dr. Scott Atlas, a vocal lockdown skeptic, is the newest member of the White House coronavirus task force. He has been increasingly featured in official briefings but criticized by health experts in recent weeks.
- Business Insider spoke to Atlas on Monday afternoon, hours before President Donald Trump returned to the White House following a four-day stay at the hospital.
- Atlas said that the president’s COVID-19 diagnosis would not change the White House’s strategy on the pandemic, which has been to protect the vulnerable while still reopening the economy.
- “He is not afraid, he’s not going to hide in the basement, endorse another lockdown … frozen in fear behind a map,” Atlas said of the president.
- Throughout the pandemic the White House has downplayed the coronavirus, pressured states to reopen, and eschewed health experts’ calls for transparency.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
President Donald Trump’s newest coronavirus adviser, Dr. Scott Atlas, says the president’s COVID-19 diagnosis will not change the White House’s current strategy on pandemic control.
Speaking to Business Insider hours before the president returned to the White House on Monday, after a four-day stay at Walter Reed hospital, Atlas said that the president would not lead from a place of fear.
“He is not afraid, he’s not going to hide in the basement, endorse another lockdown … frozen in fear behind a map,” Atlas said.
His remarks align with how Trump is trying to present his illness. On Monday, the president tweeted “don’t be afraid of Covid” and removed his mask upon arrival to the White House, even though he remains highly contagious.
Atlas went on to say that the president’s testing positive for the virus shows that “even in the safest environment, some people will get the virus” and that the “virus is not totally eliminated by a lockdown.”
“It really underscores what [Trump’s] said all along — we need to protect the high-risk people. We need to open society. People need to function. Americans want to work … This is a common sense policy that’s based on the science, not fear.”
Throughout the pandemic Trump and the White House has downplayed the coronavirus, pressured states to reopen their businesses, and eschewed health experts’ calls for transparency. The US currently has the highest number of COVID-19 cases and deaths in the world.
Health experts are skeptical of Atlas
Atlas started working at the White House in August after becoming a fixture on Fox News for months, where he advocated for the full reopening of schools and spoke against lockdowns.
His joining the coronavirus task force provoked drama and concern from top health officials, like Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top infectious-disease expert in the US, and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Robert Redfield.
Redfield was overheard by an NBC News reporter recently saying that “everything” Atlas says “is false,” while Fauci told CNN last week that he’s worried Atlas is feeding the president misleading information on the pandemic.
There have also been questions about Atlas’ qualifications to advise the president, since he is neither an epidemiologist or a public-health official. Atlas specializes is in neuroradiology, but has transitioned to a career in health policy. He’s currently a senior fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, a right-wing think tank, and has advised on health policy for Republicans like Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani.
“Somehow the charge that I am not an epidemiologist or I’m not a virologist, or I’m not a public-health official, has been repeated, and it’s ridiculous,” Atlas told Business Insider on Monday.
“I’m not here to be an epidemiologist. I’m here because I can translate complicated medical science … in a way that is plain English and understandable by the public and by the people in the White House.”
“There is no monopoly on knowledge among government-employed public health officials. My work and understanding of the pandemic is based on near-daily conversations with many of the world’s leading epidemiologists and medical scientists who actually do the research on the pandemic, not just read about the research.”
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