The newest addition to the White House Coronavirus Task Force is advocating for a return to normal life amid the pandemic, Politico reports.
Dr. Scott Atlas, who was recently named a White House adviser, is pushing for the reopening of schools and return of sports and is warning against an overreaction to the coronavirus.
Atlas has a more positive outlook on a resumption of life amid the pandemic compared to his colleagues Dr. Anthony Fauci and Dr. Deborah Birx. But unlike the other doctors on the task force, Atlas has no expertise in infectious diseases or epidemiology, Politico reports. His background is in radiology and neuroradiology. He taught both for many years as a professor and chief of neuroradiology at the Stanford University Medical Center.
Now, he is working as a paid special government employee.
According to Politico, Atlas has argued against expanded coronavirus testing in private meetings. He was against a proposal put forward by Birx that would increase home testing options through saliva tests and other methods. He also told Fauci that science doesn’t definitively support government mandates on wearing masks, even though that is what is recommended by top scientists.
Atlas is urging Americans to go back to their normal life as much as they can, according to Politico. He has done so in frequent TV appearances on networks like Fox News. It is his media appearances that caught the attention of the president and his son-in-law Jared Kushner, according to a senior administration official.
Another senior administration official told Politico that Trump has welcomed the more positive approach that Atlas provides while he has pushed Birx and Fauci aside as the election nears and a vaccine is still being worked on. He recently appeared at one of Trump’s evening briefings. He was the only medical professional present in recent weeks, according to Politico.
Atlas is part of a small group of advisers who meet every morning to discuss the daily coronavirus response. He has helped prep Trump in the Oval Office for his briefings and helps with the president’s opening remarks, according to several administration officials.
But critics say Atlas is trying to elevate himself in Republican circles with his comments.
“At the end of the day, this is a problem for Stanford,” said a former colleague from the Hoover Institution, the right-leaning think tank at the university where Atlas is a fellow. “Look, we have an administration that is lying about the virus, and they are grasping for anyone in a senior academic role. When they can use that branding and that title, it is instant credibility and that is what the administration is looking for.”
Trump “has found someone who will take him back to 2019 who says, ‘Don’t wear masks. Open the schools,’” said Juliette Kayyem, a former top Obama Department of Homeland Security official who was involved in the response to the H1N1 pandemic.
But White House deputy press secretary Judd Deere told Politico that the media has “distorted and diminished Dr. Atlas’ highly acclaimed career simply because he has come to serve the President.”
“Dr. Atlas, like all of the medical experts in the Administration, is working to carry out the President’s number one priority: protecting the health and safety of the American people,” Deere said in a statement.
One of his colleagues from the Hoover Institution called him a “rigorous scientist.”
“Just look at his prior research. Everything he says is backed up with citations,” senior fellow at the Hoover Institute Paul Peterson said of Atlas.
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