Atlas stepped down from his post as White House COVID-19 adviser on November 30 after a turbulent three-month term during which he became a lightning rod for criticism. Atlas frequently objected to lockdowns and other quarantine measures implemented to limit the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus; his opponents accused him of advocating herd immunity, a charge that he denied.
The latest imbroglio over Atlas came as part of a highly critical review in the Washington Post of the Trump administration's response to the pandemic that claimed that administration mismanagement led to the current "dark winter" of rising deaths from the virus. While the story outlined what it claimed were a number of missteps by administration personnel, it reserved a particular focus for Atlas.
The article accused Atlas of peddling "shoddy science" to Trump, who found Atlas' conservative positions more to his liking. The story also quoted Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, as stating that Atlas was "disruptive" to the work that Fauci and Dr. Deborah Birx were trying to accomplish in restricting the spread of the virus.
The Washington Post article went on to say that Atlas clashed with other Trump administration officials -- most notably Birx and Dr. Robert Redfield, head of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), on how widely to implement testing for COVID-19. The CDC initially posted testing criteria that hewed more closely to Atlas' vision, but it had to withdraw them after public outcry, according to the article.
The article also claimed that Atlas contradicted advice Birx gave to states, such as to curtail indoor dining and close bars in Florida. Atlas instead told the state's governor to focus less on testing and more on opening up the state's economy and schools.
The article quotes one former CDC staffer as stating that Atlas' comments "caused people to lose their lives" because Atlas publicly stated that mitigation measures like wearing masks didn't work and that people should "get over it" until the U.S. built up herd immunity, the article quotes the staffer as saying.
Atlas fired back at the Washington Post in an op-ed article in the Wall Street Journal on December 21 blasting what he calls a "pandemic of misinformation" surrounding the COVID-19 outbreak.
In his Wall Street Journal article, Atlas accuses the media of politicizing the pandemic and of putting the freedoms of Americans at risk. He pointed out that states implemented their own pandemic policies without the direction of the federal government and that the number of positive COVID-19 cases increased even as people's movements were constrained and business activities limited.
Atlas claimed that the news media and their Democratic allies "grossly mischaracterized" the federal government's role in the pandemic. This has obscured the "significant successes" achieved by the government, such as more testing capability and the production of billions of dollars of personal protective equipment, Atlas claimed.
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