White House COVID-19 response coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx reportedly told Vice President Mike Pence recently that Dr. Scott Atlas, who peddles anti-science talking points about the virus that bolster President Donald Trump’s attempts at PR amid his botched handling of the pandemic, needs to go.
The Washington Post reported on Monday that Birx has told Pence she does not trust Atlas, who has falsely claimed masks are ineffective against COVID-19 and pushed a herd immunity approach to the virus that scientists say would be disastrous. Additionally, Atlas does not have a background in epidemiology.
He has reportedly clashed with Birx, Dr. Anthony Fauci, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Robert Redfield, and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Stephen Hahn, repeatedly over their science-based analysis and pushes for increased testing.
According to the Post, Atlas has persistently rejected Birx and Fauci’s urgent calls to make testing widely available. Instead, he has been reportedly asserting that testing ought to be limited to populations who are most vulnerable to COVID-19 without including young and healthy people.
The Trump administration has worked to tamp down on testing, fearing how the dire COVID-19 infection rates in the U.S. could hurt the President politically ahead of the November elections. Trump has repeatedly blamed the case numbers on testing, despite the fact that it does not account for the nearly 220,000 Americans who have died from the virus.
Birx and Fauci also had what the Post described as a “fierce debate” with Atlas last month over his assertion that schools ought to be reopened (another pro-Trump proposal) because, according to Atlas, the U.S. has largely reached a herd immunity due to the country’s high caseloads.
One of Atlas’ false statements about COVID-19 led to Twitter removing his tweet claiming that masks don’t work against the virus, a violation of Twitter’s rules against misinformation.