Dr. Scott Atlas, a member of the White House coronavirus task force, told a Fox News audience on Monday that refusing to hold big holiday gatherings out of COVID fears would be a tragedy for the elderly—the people at most risk for contracting a severe case of COVID and dying.
“This kind of isolation is one of the unspoken tragedies of the elderly who are now being told don't see your family at Thanksgiving,” Atlas told Fox News Monday. “For many people this is their final Thanksgiving, believe it or not. What are we doing here?”
“I think we have to have a policy, which I have been advocating, which is a whole person, whole health policy,” Atlas added. “It's not about just stopping cases of COVID. We have to talk about the damage of the policy itself.”
Public health officials across the country have warned of large holiday gatherings for fear they might spark an avalanche of COVID-19 cases, at a time when hospital capacity in many parts of the country is already overwhelmed. People over the age of 65 account for nearly 80% of the U.S.’s COVID-19 deaths, according to the most recent CDC data.
Atlas, a neuroradiologist with no background in infectious diseases, has long been an opponent of COVID restrictions and lockdowns, and has even criticized basic public health measures such as masks and social distancing. Atlas joined the task force in August, and has been fiercely defended by Trump and the White House when actual public health experts point out how wrong he is.
On Monday, Stanford sought to distance itself from Atlas, who is currently on leave from his position as a fellow at the university’s Hoover Institution. On Sunday, Atlas encouraged people in Michigan to “rise up” against a new round of COVID restrictions by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. (Atlas later clarified he wasn’t calling for violence.)
“Dr. Atlas has expressed views that are inconsistent with the university’s approach in response to the pandemic,” Stanford said in a statement released Monday. “Dr. Atlas’s statements reflect his personal views, not those of the Hoover Institution or the university.”
During his appearance on Fox Monday, Atlas sought to clarify his comments about Whitmer’s restrictions, blaming it on being “not good” at Twitter and claiming he’s constantly receiving emails from people whose family members committed suicide “because of the lockdown.”
“What I meant, and I'm sorry I’m not very articulate on Twitter, is basically if you want to change things you have to have your voices heard,” Atlas said. “I didn’t mean anything more than that… I didn’t mean to threaten or incite violence.”