LOOKS LIKE President Donald Trump has installed yet another sycophant in his inner circle of close advisers.
The latest face in this rotating cast of characters is that of Dr. Scott Atlas, a neuroradiologist and fellow at Stanford’s Hoover Institution. He has advocated for—among other things—relaxing social distancing restrictions to allow spread of the coronavirus among younger, healthier people and thus create herd immunity. He denies promoting this approach as policy within the White House, though.
For Trump, Dr. Atlas must be a welcome addition to his increasingly fragmented team.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of NIAID and the country’s top infectious disease expert, has been a thorn in Trump’s side since the beginning, countering his fantasies with science and consistently urging a cautious and evidence-based strategy to combating the pandemic.
Even Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator who initially toed a line of deference to Trump and was criticized for painting too rosy a picture in her briefings, has become more aggressive in her warnings about the threat of community spread of the virus.
Enter Dr. Atlas—finally, a person with a medical degree who’s willing to say what Trump wants to hear.
“We like the fact that there’s a lot of cases in low-risk populations because that’s exactly how we’re gonna get herd immunity,” he told Fox News’ Tucker Carlson.
There are many issues with this strategy, foremost among them the fact that it would be very difficult to loosen restrictions for just one segment of the population while continuing to enforce them for the older and more medically vulnerable. If all children returned to school in the fall, for example, they would still risk contracting the virus from teachers or each other and bringing it home to their socially-isolating parents and grandparents. We’ve already witnessed this sort of plan fail in Sweden.
Dr. Atlas has an impressive resume and there is no doubt that he is an accomplished academic, author and physician. He actually did write the book on neuroradiology.
What he is not, however, is a public health expert, epidemiologist or infectious disease specialist.
Drs. Fauci and Birx are these things, but Trump has been increasingly discounting their voices and trying to label them as doom-and-gloom naysayers. It appears he’s finally found his yes man.
Dr. Atlas recently visited Florida to give political cover to Governor Ron DeSantis, whose initial blasé attitude toward the virus led to his state becoming a major hot spot. DeSantis is now moving to reopen schools and resume college sports.
The two made an appearance at The Villages, a massive retirement community that spans three counties and has its own hospital. It’s exactly the type of place that stands to suffer greatly if a statewide reopening causes another resurgence of cases, or if Dr. Atlas's strategy of selective community spread inevitably trickles into the populations that most need protection.
Fauci, Birx, and now Atlas. They say that three’s a crowd. Could it be that Trump’s plan, in introducing a dissenting team member, is to gradually phase out the voices he’s grown tired of hearing? It wouldn’t be the first time.