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Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Meet the “Anti-Dr Fauci”

Joan McCarter, Daily Kos Staff

By Matt DaviesNewsday
There's a new doctor on the White House pandemic team, one who is telling Donald Trump what he wants to hear. 

The neuroradiologist, Scott Atlas, comes from Stanford's conservative Hoover Institute and caught Trump's eye during his appearances on Fox News, where he promoted "herd immunity" as a strategy to combat the coronavirus pandemic. 

Five sources close to the administration and Trump's thinking tell The Washington Post that Atlas has influenced administration policy on testing and on reopening schools.

Why is a doctor who does not have a background in infectious diseases or epidemiology on the team? 

He's telling Trump what he wants to hear, reportedly calling himself the "anti-Dr. Fauci," contrasting himself with the nation's leading infectious disease specialist, the one Trump doesn't want to hear from. 

Scott Atlas on Fox News
Atlas—who, again, is not an epidemiologist or infectious disease specialist—subscribes to the theory that young, healthy people don't die from coronavirus and that it’s only people in nursing homes and other vulnerable populations who need protection from it. 

He says everyone else needs to catch it and build resistance to it: herd immunity. 

Soumya Swaminathan, the World Health Organization’s chief scientist, calculates that 65 to 70% of the population would need to be infected for herd immunity to be achieved. 

Reaching 65% infection in the U.S. would mean 2.13 million deaths if the virus has a 1% fatality rate, the Post calculates. So, yes, Atlas is a full-fledged member of the death cult and that is why Trump brought him on the team.

Atlas told Fox News' Brian Kilmeade back in July: 
“When younger, healthier people get the disease, they don’t have a problem with the disease. I’m not sure why that’s so difficult for everyone to acknowledge,” which was all Trump needed to hear. “These people getting the infection is not really a problem and in fact, as we said months ago, when you isolate everyone, including all the healthy people, you’re prolonging the problem because you’re preventing population immunity. Low-risk groups getting the infection is not a problem.” 
Never mind the fact that low-risk groups are not walled off from high-risk groups, including teachers, administrators, and support staff in schools. Atlas also has promoted the idea that lockdowns and social distancing are a danger to public health. 

He says that "personal communications with neurosurgery colleagues" informs him that half of their patients aren't being treated because of fear of the virus. 

Did this conservative quack position himself on Fox News and in editorials to get Trump's attention and a White House job? Quite possibly.

The problem is, he is influencing policy, against the strenuous objections of Drs. Anthony Fauci and Deborah Birx. The recent push (now walked back) from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to suggest that only people with symptoms of COVID-19 should be tested was influenced by Atlas. 

According to the Post ,"two senior administration officials and one former official, as well as medical experts" see Atlas' influence behind that and the push by the administration to expedite the shipment of tests to nursing homes but not to the wider community, despite ongoing shortages.

Atlas is strongly pushing schools to reopen and sports to resume under the belief that "children do not spread the virus and do not have any real risk from covid-19, arguing that more children die of influenza—an argument he has made in television and radio interviews." 

That's refuted in new information from the American Academy of Pediatrics, finding that "hospitalizations and deaths from the coronavirus have increased at a faster rate in children and teenagers than among the general public" and that "substantial community spread in many parts of the United States corresponded with more infections among children."

According the Post's sources, Atlas has more access to Trump any other health official, meeting with him "almost every day." Three senior administration officials say that he is aligned with Trump and White House chief of staff Mark Meadows on policy. 

Even Birx, who has been alarmingly willing to appear as a full-on Trumper, has clashed with Atlas "with one disagreement growing so heated at a coronavirus meeting earlier this month that other administration officials grew uncomfortable, according to a senior administration official."

So, yeah, an inexperienced quack and Trump yes-man is potentially setting not just public health policy, but influencing economic policy. 

His plan: open everything up and force the public back out into the world to achieve that herd immunity he's convinced is out there, however many millions of people will die.