President Trump’s coronavirus czar, Dr. Scott W. Atlas, who has had a leading role in the White House’s efforts to play down the virus and politicize efforts to curb its spread, resigned on Monday from a position that was set to expire this week.
Dr. Atlas, a radiologist, was heavily criticized by many health experts as his guidance on key issues — including the wearing of masks — conflicted with guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. He has also been widely criticized for his support for allowing the virus to spread in order to achieve herd immunity — a point when transmission of the virus stalls because so many people have either previously had it or have been vaccinated for it.
Allowing the virus to spread unchecked in an effort to achieve herd immunity could lead to hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of additional deaths.
Currently, more than 13 million Americans — 4 percent of the population — have been confirmed to have had the virus. Experts say 70 percent of the population would need to either have had the virus or have been vaccinated for it to achieve herd immunity status.
President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. has said he would work on urging governors to mandate masks in public once he is in the Oval Office, but there is little he can do to stem the spread of the virus before his inauguration on Jan. 20. Some epidemiologists predict the national death toll from the virus could surpass 470,000 by March 1.
“His actions have undermined and threatened public health, even as countless lives have been lost to Covid-19,” wrote a group of Stanford doctors in a joint statement on Monday, according to The San Francisco Chronicle. Dr. Atlas is a senior fellow at the university’s conservative Hoover Institution, and that same group of doctors in September denounced many of his statements regarding virus response.
Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota led the country with the most new virus cases per capita in the past week. And hospitals are filling up in some states, raising concerns that they could soon be overwhelmed. In California, state officials are bracing for intensive care units to become overloaded in a matter of weeks.