Atlas, upbeat and relentlessly on message that Americans ought to resume life as a lot as they’ll, is the dwell embodiment of the president’s Covid-is-not-that-big-of-a-deal method. Where faculty superintendents and soccer convention officers see a threat of the virus’s unfold this fall, he cautions towards too-strict measures. During Fox News appearances, he has downplayed the necessity for college kids to put on face coverings or apply social distancing if colleges do reopen.
“It is proven children have no significant risk,” he mentioned throughout a July 15 TV look. It’s a line that Trump has parroted however that hasn’t been borne out in districts the place in-person studying has resumed: Schools in Georgia, North Carolina and Indiana have needed to shut down shortly after beginning the yr due to optimistic circumstances.
In personal conferences on the White House, Atlas has irritated different aides by arguing towards expanded Covid-19 testing. He opposed a proposal championed by Dr. Deborah Birx, the response coordinator for the White House coronavirus activity pressure, to scale up dwelling testing via strategies akin to saliva assessments. And not too long ago, in a activity pressure assembly, he instructed Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s high infectious illness professional, that science doesn’t definitively help authorities mandates on sporting masks. (The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that Americans put on masks once they work together with these outdoors of the house and in situations when social distancing will not be potential.)
Atlas’ elevation contained in the White House comes at a time when Trump aides are attempting to present the notion of doing the whole lot they’ll to struggle the virus and discover a vaccine roughly 80 days from the election, as the speed of an infection climbs and the United States’ testing capability falls quick. Trump has sidelined or lashed out at lots of his high well being professionals, together with Fauci and Birx, and has welcomed the completely different medical perspective Atlas offers, one senior administration official mentioned.
Atlas declined to remark when reached by telephone.
Critics, together with different conservatives and well being officers, say he’s shading science and info with a partisan lens to raise himself and acquire energy in Republican circles.
“At the end of the day, this is a problem for Stanford,” mentioned one former colleague from the Hoover Institution, the right-leaning assume tank on the college the place Atlas is a fellow. “Look, we have an administration that is lying about the virus, and they are grasping for anyone in a senior academic role. When they can use that branding and that title, it is instant credibility and that is what the administration is looking for.”
Judd Deere, the White House deputy press secretary, mentioned in a assertion: “We are all in this fight together, and only the media has distorted and diminished Dr. Atlas’ highly acclaimed career simply because he has come to serve the President. Dr. Atlas, like all of the medical experts in the Administration, is working to carry out the President’s number one priority: protecting the health and safety of the American people.”
Atlas first got here to the eye of the Trump administration the best way it finds so many high officers: via his appearances on Fox News. His feedback on the coronavirus lockdown and the necessity to reopen the financial system and colleges caught the eye of the president and several other high aides, together with Jared Kushner, in accordance with a second senior administration official.
Just a few weeks in the past, Atlas formally joined the administration as an adviser, and in a quick time he has grow to be a frequent presence within the Oval Office and across the White House advanced.
He spoke publicly at a White House occasion about faculty reopening and appeared at one of many president’s night briefings, the one medical skilled to take action in latest weeks. He has shortly established himself as a voice pushing for the resumption of each day exercise, together with the taking part in of school soccer and opening of colleges — which Trump advisers and aides see as a key marker of normalcy that can assist Trump’s reelection marketing campaign.
Far extra considerably, he’s a part of a tiny group of advisers who meet each morning to chart the each day response to Covid-19: a group that features long-standing aides like Kushner and Stephen Miller. He has gained affect so shortly that he even helps to arrange the president within the Oval Office for the newly revived night briefings and makes ideas for Trump’s opening remarks, in accordance with interviews with six senior administration officers and Republicans near the White House.
Atlas often questions or spars with different administration officers about knowledge on the unfold of the virus, or the efficacy of the federal government’s requiring individuals to put on masks, or the deserves of broadening testing among the many broader inhabitants — all of which different well being professionals contemplate key planks in combating the virus, a form of Pandemic 101.
He has grow to be the president’s go-to Covid-19 doctor, the anti-Fauci, even when he doesn’t have a background in infectious illnesses or epidemiology. Instead, his specialty lies in radiology and neuroradiology, topics he taught for a few years as a professor and chief of neuroradiology on the Stanford University medical Center.
“There is nothing inherently bad with having a management leader of a task force who is not a subject-matter expert, like an epidemiologist,” mentioned Juliette Kayyem, a former high Obama Department of Homeland Security official who was closely concerned within the response to the H1N1 pandemic.
“Every crisis has brains and muscle,” Kayyem added. “You have the scientists who know how to get the vaccine and protect us from the virus, and then you have the people who get things done, but Dr. Atlas doesn’t seem to fit into either. The only thing that will happen is that he will be another impediment to either real science or real action.”
In addition to his analysis on the Hoover Institution on well being care coverage and pricing, Atlas has suggested previous presidential candidates, together with Rudy Giuliani in 2008 and Mitt Romney in 2012. At the White House, he’s working as a paid particular authorities worker.
Two colleagues from the Hoover Institution praised Atlas’ work as critical and evidence-based.
“He is a rigorous scientist,” mentioned Paul Peterson, a senior fellow on the Hoover Institution and a professor at Harvard University with whom Atlas recently wrote an op-ed on the reopening of colleges. “Just look at his prior research. Everything he says is backed up with citations.”
Michael Boskin, an economics professor at Stanford and a senior fellow at Hoover, added: “Scott is a highly valued colleague. He brings someone from the top of academic medicine’s perspective to health policy, which complements the economists, lawyer and others working on the subject, and since he has joined Hoover, he has been an important part of the discussion in and around health policy.”
Past colleagues and different well being professionals say Atlas is somebody who all the time likes to be within the heart of the motion and has all the time been thinking about gaining energy — and that now contains his place contained in the White House.
Trump “has found someone who will take him back to 2019 who says, ‘Don’t wear masks. Open the schools,’” mentioned Kayyem, the previous Homeland Security official. “We are going via this. We’re not going again.
“The strategy of see no evil may be working for Trump, but it is not working for America. This is just more of the same.”