Whatever Trump’s COVID-19 Adviser Says, Please Do The Opposite

Besides just listening to Dr. Anthony Fauci, a safe edict for the public might be: “do the opposite of whatever Trump’s COVID-19 adviser, Dr. Scott Atlas, says," given his recent comments on Thanksgiving gatherings and more.

President Donald Trump listens to White House coronavirus adviser Dr. Scott Atlas speak during a press conference in the Brady Briefing Room of the White House on September 23, 2020. | Getty Images
President Donald Trump listens to White House coronavirus adviser Dr. Scott Atlas speak during a press conference in the Brady Briefing Room of the White House on September 23, 2020. | Getty Images

Dr. Scott Atlas, who has served on President Donald Trump’s coronavirus task force since August 2020 and increasingly become the face of the administration’s response, has been on an eyebrow-raising media tear in recent weeks, doling out irresponsible information — as cases surge nationwide with increasing speed heading into winter.

While most public health experts are urgently warning people against attending gatherings of any size for Thanksgiving outside of your household, Dr. Atlas appeared on Fox News Monday and proposed the opposite.

“This kind of isolation is one of the unspoken tragedies of the elderly who are now being told don’t see your family at Thanksgiving. For many people, this is their final Thanksgiving, believe it or not. What are we doing here?” Atlas said to anchor Martha MacCallum. “I think we have to have a policy, which I have been advocating, which is a whole person, whole health policy. It’s not about just stopping cases of COVID. We have to talk about the damage of the policy itself.”

The comment had people immediately scratching their heads, as older people have been considered the most vulnerable population to COVID-19 complications since the beginning of the pandemic. While social isolation is certainly a problem, health experts are urging people to stay home, to protect their elderly relatives from getting sick.

“After big Thanksgiving dinners, plan small Christmas funerals, health experts warn,” read one headline in the Mississippi Free Press, quoting state health officials who said:  “We don’t really want to see Mamaw at Thanksgiving and bury her at Christmas.”

“You’re going to have a lot of sick folks who caught (COVID-19) during Thanksgiving. We know this is the perfect milieu, having young folks and old folks and folks with chronic illness around the table—and then death,” MS state health officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs said recently, advising “very small Thanksgiving gatherings” with only members of your household.

Mississippi State Medical Association President Dr. Mark Horne — who delivered the warning about Mamaw on the same call — said, “It’s going to happen. You’re going to say hi at Thanksgiving, it’s so nice to see you, and you’re either going to be visiting her by Facetime in the ICU or planning a small funeral by Christmas.”

Dr. Atlas’ rather contradictory Thanksgiving statements came just one day after he had to backtrack on a tweet that seemed to encourage people to “rise up” against newly reinstated COVID-19 restrictions. On November 15, he tweeted this in response to Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer closing down indoor dining, in-person learning, and more, for at least three weeks while the state fights to get control of cases there:

Despite his use of the phrases and hashtags “rise up” and “step up,” after receiving criticism for his choice of words in response to a Democratic governor who was recently the subject of a domestic terrorism kidnapping plot, Atlas tried to soften his language.

Atlas is a senior fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, and the university tweeted on Monday in response to his recent statements — noting that he is on a “leave of absence” from his position:

This wasn’t the first time Atlas got in trouble for something he posted on social media. On October 17, he tweeted “Masks work? NO” and then a “series of misrepresentations about the science behind the effectiveness of masks,” according to CNN. Twitter removed the post for violating its COVID-19 Misleading Information Policy, a spokesperson said, noting that it specifically violated the ban on sharing false or misleading content that could lead to harm.

Perhaps it’s not a surprise that the key COVID-19 adviser to the president has been formally reprimanded by a platform for sharing inaccurate information about the pandemic, given that this president himself has been formally reprimanded for sharing inaccurate information about voting, elections, and democracy in general (in addition to misleading information about COVID-19). It’s also particularly ironic given that Atlas has #FactsMatter and #TruthMatters in his Twitter bio.

Unfortunately, such purveyors of disinformation are already migrating to other platforms where there are no rules against such behavior, such as Parler — a social media app funded by the Mercer family, which MAGA fanatics have been joining in droves in recent weeks. Atlas is no exception.

For now, though, Atlas is still spreading dangerous and inaccurate information on the major platforms that he still has: from the White House, via the president, on Fox News, on Twitter, and more. Summing it all up, MSNBC host Chris Hayes tweeted Tuesday, “There's a strong case Scott Atlas is responsible for more death than any single policymaker in recent memory.”

As of November 17, more than 248,000 people in the U.S. have died from coronavirus, far more than any other country in the world.