Donald Trump’s New Pandemic Advisor Is A Frequent Fox News Guest Who Downplayed COVID-19 Deaths
Donald Trump has a new advisor in the White House to help handle the COVID-19 pandemic. Scott Atlas, whose work is not in public health or infectious disease, also initially drastically downplayed the impact of COVID-19 deaths, comparing it to the flu back in March. The numbers he cited then have ballooned since.
13NewsNow describes Atlas as ” the former chief of neuroradiology at Stanford University Medical Center and a fellow at Stanford’s conservative Hoover Institution, [with] no expertise in public health or infectious diseases.”
He’s a frequent Fox News guest, and has always been critical of lockdowns, and expressed the opinion that schools should be opened. In March, he tweeted to compare COVID-19 to the seasonal flu, saying that there had only been a few hundred deaths in the U.S., compared to tens of thousands per year from the flu.
Flu DEATHS/year, USA
Covid-19 (so far): 348
Flu CASES/year (symptomatic), USA
Covid-19 (so far) 26,867 https://t.co/ZPOgxOSe9A
— Scott W. Atlas (@SWAtlasHoover) March 22, 2020
Of course, in March, COVID-19 had only been spreading in the U.S. for a few months. The first death had been counted only in February — so he was comparing a few weeks of spread and mortality data to a full year of flu deaths. Now, a few months later, the CDC has the U.S. COVID-19 death count at over 168k — more than 3 times the second-highest flu death toll Atlas cited (51k in 2014-2015 season), and quickly approaching triple the highest death toll he described (61k in 2018-2019).
Dr. Scott Atlas: "We know that the risk of the disease is extremely low for children, even less than that of seasonal flu." pic.twitter.com/kZFCByfMRW
— The White House (@WhiteHouse) August 15, 2020
In the White House clip above, Atlas says that COVID-19 is less dangerous to children than the seasonal flu and thanks Trump for making the effort to reopen schools.
With schools closed for the summer and part of the 2019-2020 school year, there is not yet full data on the spread among school-aged children. Earlier this month, the American Academy of Pediatrics reported that, where age is reported, children make up fewer than 10% of COVID-19 cases, and a smaller percentage still of deaths. However, they also noted that in the four weeks before the data was published — from July 9 to August 6 — there was a 90% increase in pediatric cases.
Trump has threatened to withdraw funding from schools that do virtual classes and distance education rather than in-person on-campus courses, and his new health advisor seems to echo his sentiments regarding the push for schools to reopen.