Stanford faculty resolute in criticism of White House advisor’s national COVID strategy

in PoliticalClimate

A group of approximately 100 Stanford faculty members are holding firm in their convictions criticizing White House Coronavirus Task Force senior adviser Dr. Scott Atlas’ controversial views on the pandemic, despite recent legal threats from Dr. Atlas’ lawyer.

Dr. Atlas, the former chief of neuroradiology at Stanford Medical Center and a Hoover Institution senior fellow, was appointed a member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force and senior advisor to President Trump in August. On the heels of an Aug. 31 report by the Washington Post that he embraced a controversial herd immunity strategy to combat the pandemic, Dr. Atlas drew intense criticism from colleagues.

Dr. Atlas denies recommending herd immunity as an option to the task force or the president, per a report in The Stanford Daily. Nonetheless, the same report said he has repeatedly upheld the strategy as one of the best ways to “eradicate the threat of the virus” in Hoover Institution virtual policy briefings, in an April op-ed in The Hill and in his remarks in May to a U.S. Senate committee.

In their initial letter addressed to colleagues and dated Sept. 9, the Stanford faculty member collective stated in regards to Dr. Atlas that “many of his opinions and statements run counter to established science and, by doing so, undermine public-health authorities and the credible science that guides effective public health policy.” The letter went on to provide five statements, drawing upon global data, offering their collective guidance on effective public health policy regarding COVID-19.

On Sept. 23, a new letter, signed by an even larger group of 105 doctors, scientists and health experts, reiterated their concern in the wake of receiving a letter threatening legal action from Dr. Atlas’ attorney. The letter demanded the Stanford collective issue a press release retracting their statements, claiming they falsely portrayed Dr. Atlas’ views and were defamatory. Despite the alleged threat, however, the growing group of medical experts say they will remain resolute in their collective criticism of Dr. Atlas.

“We believe that his statements and the advice he has been giving fosters misunderstandings of established science and risks undermining critical public health efforts,” the group said in the Sept. 23 letter. “Today, we stand by our Sept. 9 letter and reaffirm our concerns. In addition, we are deeply troubled by the legal threats that Dr. Atlas has made against us in an attempt to intimidate and silence us in the midst of a pandemic, as we speak out on important public health issues.”

The group added, “We stand together and we reiterate clearly and with great affirmation that public health policy must be guided by established scientific principles and not opinions, especially ones that could harm individuals and the health of our nation.”

Photo credit: White House