Over the weekend, Twitter removed a COVID-19-related tweet from a White House doctor, which was deemed misleading due to him saying that masks don't work. The tweet was posted on Saturday by Dr. Scott Atlas, one of the top coronavirus advisers to the Trump administration. According to NBC News, as of Sunday, the tweet was "no longer available."
In the post, Atlas wrote, "Masks work? NO: LA, Miami, Hawaii, Alabama, France, Phlippnes, UK, Spain, Israel. WHO: 'widesprd use not supported' + many harms; Heneghan/Oxf CEBM:'despite decades, considerble uncertainty re value'; CDC rvw May:'no sig red'n in inflnz transm'n'; learn why." While the post was filled with typos, they appear to have simply been so he could make his point within the character-length set by Twitter. In a separate post let that same day, Atlas added, "That means the right policy is [Donald Trump's] guideline: use masks for their intended purpose — when close to others, especially hi risk. Otherwise, social distance. No widespread mandates."
Famous public health "experts" testing & isolating asymptomatics, limiting in-person school, restricting businesses... That's the DEFINITION of lockdown! Why care? Got another email from a wife of a suicide victim - pleading for me to OPEN America. End the insanity #LockdownsKill— Scott W. Atlas (@SWAtlasHoover) October 16, 2020
Many of Atlas' peers do not see eye-to-eye with him on this subject. Dr. Brett Giroir, who is the coordinator of the Trump administration's testing response, as well as the assistant secretary for health at the Department of Health and Human Services, tweeted: "#Masks work? YES!" He added, "And even though cases/hospitalizations are increasing, we can control #COVID19 by wearing masks when we can't distance, avoiding crowds especially indoors, good hygiene, and smart testing of contacts and to identify/isolate those asymptomatic but infectious."
While Atlas has gotten a more pivotal role in the Trump administration's COVID-19 response team, he has been accused of providing false data to the White House. In September, Dr. Robert Redfield — the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — was speaking to a colleague during a commercial airline flight, when he was overheard by an NBC News reporter saying that Atlas was not being honest with Trump. "Everything he says is false," Redfield said.
On Oct. 14, ahead of Atlas' tweet, the CDC made its stance on masks very clear, while also sharing some alarming data. "U.S. [COVID-19] cases continue to increase, with 359,835 new cases reported in the last week. Take steps to prepare for an outbreak in your community. Cover your coughs and sneezes. Wear a mask, wash your hands, stay 6 feet apart."