Dr. Scott Atlas has only been on the White House’s coronavirus task force for a month, but appears to already have President Donald Trump’s ear and is worrying top experts like Dr. Anthony Fauci.
Atlas was brought onto Trump’s coronavirus task force in August, after appearing on Fox News for several months, where he often echoed the president’s views — including an opposition to lockdowns.
He is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, a conservative think tank at Stanford University.
Unlike the other experts on the task force, Fauci and Dr. Deborah Birx, Atlas does not have a specialty in either infectious diseases or public health. Instead, he focuses on healthcare policy and has a background in neuroradiology, which is the reading of X-rays, CT scans, and MRIs.
Nonetheless, Atlas has become a favorite of the president, appearing often at the White House’s coronavirus briefings. Birx and Fauci have not spoken in those briefings as much in recent weeks.
Fauci, Redfield wave red flags
On Friday, an NBC News reporter overheard CDC Director Robert Redfield referring to Atlas in a phone conversation, saying “everything he says is false.” Redfield confirmed to the reporter after the flight that he was indeed talking about Atlas.
CDC Director Robert Redfield seen testifying before the Senate on September 23, 2020. Redfield was overheard on a flight recently saying that “everything” Atlas says “is false.”
“You know my differences with Dr. Atlas, I’m always willing to sit down and talk with him and see if we could resolve those differences,” Fauci said.
In response to Redfield and Fauci’s remarks, Atlas told Business Insider: “All of my policy recommendations to the President are directly backed by the current science, and they are in line with what many of the world’s top medical scientists advise, including Martin Kulldorff and Katherine Yih of Harvard Medical School; Jay Bhattacharya and John Ioannidis of Stanford University Medical Center; and Sunetra Gupta and Carl Heneghan of Oxford University.”
“Career government public health officials do not have a monopoly on knowledge.”
Since the beginning of the US coronavirus outbreak, Atlas has spoken out against imposing lockdown measures, saying it impedes herd immunity and is costing the lives of people too afraid to seek emergency medical treatment for other issues.
“In the absence of immunization, society needs circulation of the virus, assuming high-risk people can be isolated,” he wrote in an op-ed for The Hill in April. “It is very possible that whole-population isolation prevented natural herd immunity from developing.”
The Washington Post reported last month that Atlas had been pushing for the US to embrace herd immunity, though he has since denied it.
Experts including Fauci have spoken out against herd immunity, a scenario where enough people in a population become immune to a virus to stop it from spreading, warning that it would cost even more lives.
Dr. Anthony Fauci testifying before the Senate on September 23, 2020. Fauci recently called Dr. Scott Atlas an “outlier” in his beliefs on the coronavirus.
Atlas had also pushed for schools to reopen for in-person classes in the fall, claiming that the “risk of the disease is extremely low for children, even less than that of seasonal flu” and that the “harms of locking out the children from school are enormous.”
Many schools across the country have reopened for in-person classes, while others have chosen to remain online.
According to a new report by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children’s Hospital Association, the cumulative rate of coronavirus infections among kids has risen from 2.2% in April to 10% by mid-September. The report’s authors warned that the findings should underscore the importance of implementing strategies to keep children safe.
Teachers who oppose schools reopening during the COVID-19 pandemic protest in Tampa, Florida, on August 6, 2020.
Octavio Jones/Getty Images
Forbes has pointed out that Atlas is not an infectious-disease expert, like Fauci, but focuses on healthcare policy instead.
Prior to joining the Hoover Institute at Stanford, Atlas was the chief of neuroradiology at the school’s medical center from 1998 to 2012, according to his profile on Stanford’s website. Neuroradiologists analyze X-rays, CT scans, and MRIs.
Atlas has also previously advised on the presidential campaigns of Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney, according to Forbes.