President Donald Trump has made Dr. Scott Atlas the newest member of the White House coronavirus task force, and the choice is highly controversial. Atlas is an outspoken critic of many of the preventative measures being used to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, including stay-at-home orders and the closure of public spaces. According to The Washington Examiner, a White House spokesperson did not specify what Atlas' responsibilities will be in his new role.
Trump introduced Atlas as a new adviser during his press conference from the White House on Monday. He said that Atlas was "a very famous man," adding: "he's working with us and will be working with us on the coronavirus." Atlas has previously been quoted extensively as a critic of lockdown measures taken by state and local governments. One of his most controversial stances is that schools should fully reopen in the fall, regardless of the risk of spreading the coronavirus.
Here's Dr. Scott Atlas, @realDonaldTrump's newest coronavirus task force member, getting off on the right foot by making the case for a 2020 college football season.
"There’s not a lot of obese, diabetic 78-year-olds playing football."August 11, 2020
"In the absence of immunization, society needs circulation of the virus, assuming high-risk people can be isolated," Atlas wrote in an opinion column for The Hill back in April. "It is very possible that whole-population isolation prevented natural herd immunity from developing."
Atlas is a senior fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution. He is a physician with a background in health care policy, and has served as an adviser to Republican presidential campaigns since 2008. Introducing him on Monday, Trump left no doubt that Atlas had been chosen for his role because of his controversial ideas on how to handle the spread of COVID-19.
Trump said that Atlas "has many great ideas, and he thinks what we've done is really good, and that will take it to a new level." While his specific responsibilities have not been identified, many pundits are speculating that it will have to do with re-opening schools — especially considering Atlas' comments on the topic in another opinion poll last month.
"If steps need to be taken to protect children from COVID-19, then those same steps are required each and every year that the influenza season arrives," he wrote. "A disease... that is frequently transmitted from children to the same high-risk teachers and family members who then die, to the tune of 35,000 to 90,000 Americans every flu season."
Atlas' appointment comes amid Trump's increasing criticism of other members of his coronavirus task force. In addition to publicly condemning Dr. Anthony Fauci, Trump recently turned on Dr. Deborah Birx on Twitter, after she made less than flattering comments about him on TV. Both doctors are still technically working with the task force.