Meet Trump's new coronavirus adviser Dr. Scott Atlas, a Stanford physician who frequently criticized lockdown measures and believes in the full reopening of schools

acollman@businessinsider.com (Ashley Collman)
·5 min read
Scott Atlas
Scott Atlas listens to President Donald Trump at a briefing at the White House on August 10, 2020.
  • President Donald Trump announced the hiring of Dr. Scott Atlas as a coronavirus adviser on Monday.

  • Atlas is a healthcare policy expert who works at the Hoover Institute, a conservative think tank at Stanford University. He is not an infectious-diseases expert.

  • He has been a frequent guest on Fox News in recent months, where he frequently spoke out against lockdown measures and for the full reopening of schools in the fall.

  • Atlas' appointment comes as Trump appears to be tiring of Dr. Anthony Fauci and Dr. Deborah Birx, two experts who have been on the White House coronavirus task force for months.

  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

President Donald Trump has taken on a new coronavirus adviser who shares his belief that schools and college football should resume in the fall — as he continues to be at odds with top experts like Dr. Anthony Fauci.

At the White House's coronavirus briefing on Monday, Trump announced the hiring of Dr. Scott Atlas, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, a conservative think tank at Stanford University.

Related video: 6 months of the coronavirus pandemic in the U.S.

Since the beginning of the US coronavirus outbreak, Atlas has spoken out against imposing lockdown measures, saying it impedes herd immunity and is costing the lives of people too afraid to seek emergency medical treatment for other issues.

"In the absence of immunization, society needs circulation of the virus, assuming high-risk people can be isolated," he wrote in an op-ed for The Hill in April. "It is very possible that whole-population isolation prevented natural herd immunity from developing."

Since May, Atlas has also appeared on Fox News regularly to speak on the US coronavirus crisis, and shared opinions often at odds with many public-health experts' warnings.

For one, Atlas has said that he thinks schools should reopen and that the college football season should be able to start without any issues.

These ideas seem to line up with the president's own ideas about the pandemic.

At the Monday press briefing, Trump called Atlas a "very famous man who's also very highly respected," according to a pool report.

"He has many great ideas," Trump said. "He thinks what we've done is really good, and now we'll take it to a new level."

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Trump and Dr. Anthony Fauci at a White House coronavirus briefing in April 2020.

In an interview with Fox News on Monday night, Atlas said about his new appointment: "Any way I can help, I will do so."

During this interview Atlas also said that it was perfectly safe for the college football season to start this fall.

He said that athletes would be in a "very sophisticated environment" to prevent the spread of the disease, and claimed that being "physical specimens" meant there was "virtually zero risk" of the virus hurting them.

While young and otherwise healthy people have a lower risk of contracting a severe version of COVID-19, several athletes have tested positive for COVID-19. Athletic people have also contracted severe coronavirus symptoms.

However, Atlas did acknowledge that there may be some coaches or players with other health conditions who may need to sit the season out.

"There is such fear in the community and unfortunately it's been propagated by people who are doing some really sloppy thinking and really sensationalistic media reporting," Atlas said.

Trump and many other top Republicans have recently called on organizing bodies to continue with the fall season of college football, though several conferences and players have already dropped out over coronavirus fears.

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Trump listens as Atlas speaks at a White House coronavirus briefing on August 12, 2020.

Atlas also spoke on Wednesday at an event Trump held on reopening America's schools.

According to a pool report from the event, Atlas said that the "risk of the disease is extremely low for children, even less than that of seasonal flu" and that the "harms of locking out the children from school are enormous."

His comments came two days after the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children's Hospital Association reported that more than 97,000 children in the US had tested positive for COVID-19 in the last two weeks of July.

Studies have also shown that children can be carriers for the disease, posing threats to the adults who teach them if schools reopen.

This isn't the first time that Atlas has supported reopening schools. In July, he told Fox News that the idea of not reopening schools in the fall was "hysteria" and "ludicrous."

Forbes has pointed out that Atlas is not an infectious disease expert, like Fauci, but focuses on healthcare policy instead.

Prior to joining the Hoover Institute at Stanford, Atlas was the chief of neuroradiology at the school's medical center from 1998 to 2012, according to his profile on Stanford's website. Neuroradiologists analyze x-rays, CT scans, and MRIs.

Atlas has also previously advised on the presidential campaigns of Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney, according to Forbes.

Atlas' appointment as an adviser to the president comes as Trump appears to be tiring of Fauci and Dr. Deborah Birx, two top experts who have been advising the White House coronavirus task force for months.

He has called Fauci "a bit of an alarmist" and called out Birx on Twitter for saying that the disease was "extraordinarily widespread."

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