[Freddie Sayers from LockdownTV interviews (41 mins) Scott Atlas a health care academic and member of the Coronavirus Task Force advising Trump. He expresses his dismay and disgust at the media and public policy establishment, and angry that lockdown policies have been allowed to go on so long.
I’m Disgusted and Dismayed
Oct 20, 2020
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Published on Oct 20, 2020
Scott Atlas: I’m disgusted and dismayed
•Oct 20, 2020
Freddie Sayers caught up with Scott Atlas, a healthcare policy academic from the Hoover Institute at Stanford, who has become the latest lightning rod for the controversy around Covid-19 policy and his support for a more targeted response.
Speaking from inside the White House, where he is now Senior advisor to the President and a member of the Coronavirus task force, he does not hold back. He tells us that he is disgusted and dismayed at the media and public policy establishment, sad that it has come to this, cynical about their intentions, and angry that lockdown policies have been allowed to go on so long.
He won’t be rushing back to Stanford, where his colleagues have rounded on him, if the President loses in November.
I’m a healthcare policy person — I have a background in medical science, but my role really is to translate medial science into public policy. That’s very different from being an epidemiologist or a virologist with a single, limited view on things.
He’s just one person on the task force — there are several people on the task force. His background is virology, immunology and infectious disease. It’s a very different background, it’s a more limited approach, and I don’t speak for him.
Herd immunity policy?
No. It’s a repeated distortion, lie, or whatever you want to call it… What they mean by ‘herd immunity strategy’ is survival of the fittest, let the infection spread through the community and develop a population immunity. That’s never been the policy that I have advised. It’s never even been discussed inside the White House, not even for a single minute. And that’s never been the policy of the President of the United States or anybody else here. I’ve said that many many times… and yet it persists like so many other things, hence the term that the President is fond of using called fake news.
On herd immunity
Population immunity is a biological phenomenon that occurs. It’s sort of like if you’re building something in your basement: it’s down on the ground because gravity puts it there. It’s not a ‘strategy’ to say that herd immunity exists — it is obtained when a certain percentage of the population becomes resistant or immune to an infection, whether that is by getting infected or getting a vaccine or by a combination of both. In fact, if you don’t that believe herd immunity exists as a way to block the pathways to the vulnerable in an infection, then you would never advocate or believe in giving widespread vaccination — that’s the whole point of it… I’ve explained it to people who seemingly didn’t understand it; I’ve mentioned this radioactive word called herd immunity. But that’s not a strategy that anyone is pursuing.
What is his policy?
My advice is exactly this. It’s a three-pronged strategy. Number one: aggressive protection of high risk individuals and the vulnerable (typically the elderly and those with co-morbidities). Number two: allocate resources so that we prevent hospital overcrowding, so that people can be treated for this virus and get the other serious medical care that is needed. Number three: open schools, society and businesses because keeping them closed is enormously harmful — in fact it kills people.
Effect of lockdowns
We must open up because we’re killing people. In the US, 46% of the six most common cancers were not diagnosed during the shutdown… These are people who will present to the hospital or their doctor with later stage disease — many of these people will die. 650,000 Americans are on chemotherapy — half of them didn’t come in for their chemo because they were afraid. Two-thirds of screenings for cancer were not done; half of childhood immunisations did not get done; 85% of living organ transplants did not get done. And then we see the other harms: 200,000 cases plus of child abuse in the US during the two months of spring school closures were not reported because schools are the number one agency where abuse is noticed; we have one out of four American young adults, college age, who thought of killing themselves in the month of June…
All of these harms are massive for the working class and the lower socioeconomic groups. The people who are upper class, who can work from home, the people who can sip their latte and complain that their children are underfoot or that they have to come up with extra money to hire a tutor privately — these are people who are not impacted by the lockdowns.
Scott Atlas: These are these are inappropriate and destructive policies. I’m sort of disgusted and dismayed at the state of things.
Freddie Sayers: Hello and welcome. You’re watching LockdownTV from UnHerd.
Well, we’ve been talking lot about herd immunity, about different Coronavirus strategies, and one name that comes up a lot in this discussion is Dr. Scott Atlas.
He joins us now down the line from the White House in Washington. Dr. Atlas. Hi.
Scott Atlas: Thanks for having me. Nice to be here.
Freddie Sayers: So you are a Special Advisor to the President and a member of the Coronavirus Task Force. Who at the moment is making the decisions about White House policy on Coronavirus?
Scott Atlas: The President. It’s always been that way. And how does the advice get to him? Are you now the kind of conduit of that collective advice? How did the different voices on the Coronavirus Task Force combine to provide advice to the president?
Scott Atlas: Well, there are recommendations from a lot of places to the President. I am a person who has recommendations to the President. Various other recommendations in discussions are heard from the Task Force. He also listens to people from outside the government outside the Task Force inside the government.
So there’s a variety of people, which is appropriate, because it’s a complicated situation. And it’s not just about one facet. It’s, in fact, that’s why I was brought in here, because my background is a health care policy person. And I have a background in medical science. My role really is to translate medical science into public policy. That’s very different from being an epidemiologist, or a virologist with a single sort of limited scope, or limited view on things.
Freddie Sayers: Then we have people like Dr. Fauci, who is also a public health policy guy. I mean, how should people outside interpret both you and him being advisors to the President? And yet with apparently such different views?
Scott Atlas: Well, I don’t speak for Dr. Fauci, at all. He’s one. He’s just one person on the Task Force. That’s, there’s several people on the Task Force. And his background is virology, immunology, infectious disease, that’s his approach. It’s a very different background. It’s a more limited approach.
And, you know, I don’t speak for him. And I don’t speak for anybody. I speak for the interpretation of the data, and the subsequent evolution of that data into the best public policy advice that I can give the President of the United States.
Freddie Sayers: So there was a story in the Financial Times, I think, a couple of days ago, saying that you are now advocating a “herd immunity” policy, and that is now the official position of the White House. Is that the case?
Scott Atlas: No! It’s a repeated, you know, distortion, lie, whatever word you want to say. Frankly, I didn’t, I didn’t really read the paper, I used to have time to read the Financial Times. But I don’t have much time these days.
But, in any event, there’s some kind of a, you know, strange, distortion, a persistent sort of attempt to characterise my advice, and the policy of the White House, and the policy of other people, into something that some people have called a “herd immunity strategy”, quote, unquote.
And what they mean by that is “survival of the fittest”, let the infection spread through the community, and then develop a population immunity. That’s never been the policy that I’ve advised! That’s never been the policy that’s ever even been discussed inside the White House, not even for a single minute! And that’s never been the policy of the President of the United States, or anybody else here.
So, I have to say that I’ve said that many, many times. I’ve explicitly and precisely in these words, and even stronger words, denied that is a policy, or a recommendation of me. And yet, it persists like so many other things, hence the term that the President is fond of using, called “fake news”. Because it’s an accurate term.
Freddie Sayers: So I guess I have to ask what is your advice to the president? If it’s not that.
Scott Atlas: My policy, my advice, is exactly this. It’s a three pronged strategy.
Number one, aggressive protection of high risk individuals and the vulnerable, typically elderly and those with co-morbidities.
Number two, allocate resources so that we prevent hospital overcrowding, so that people can be treated for this virus, and also get the other serious medical care that is needed.
And number three, open schools, societies. And, you know, businesses.
Because keeping them closed is enormously harmful. In fact, it kills people! That’s the strategy.
That is very different from just saying, open the barn door, as we say, in the United States, and letting the infection spread through the community. That’s never been the policy. I’ve never recommended that.
But what I have done, and what everyone else who understands basic immunology, is, understand that population immunity is a biological phenomenon that occurs. It’s sort of like if you’re building something in your basement, it’s down on the ground, because gravity puts it there.
It’s simply, it’s not a “strategy” to say that herd immunity exists. Herd immunity is obtained when a certain percentage of the population becomes resistant, or immune to an infection, whether that is by getting infected, or getting a vaccine, or a combination of both.
In fact, if you don’t believe that herd immunity exists as a pathway to block, as a way to block the pathways to the vulnerable in an infection, then you would never really advocate, or believe in giving widespread vaccination. That’s the whole point of it.
Freddie Sayers: Is it fair to say, though, that since your arrival at the White House, the policy has shifted in that direction? I mean, is the three pronged strategy you described, which is based on protecting the vulnerable and placing as much emphasis as possible on opening society, is that now officially the White House policy to Coronavirus?
Scott Atlas: It is the White House policy to Coronavirus. But interestingly, it always was.
When the President started this whole sort of observation was something that I think was overlooked by most people in the world, and most Governors and States in the United States. When he said in the third week of March:
“The cure cannot be worse than the problem! The cure cannot be worse than the disease!”
And that is a very common sense, very smart, wise statement, particularly since we’ve learned how enormously harmful the lockdowns and the restrictions of individuals, and families, and school openings, have been on society.
In April, the White House released a formal “Opening up America” document. And in that document, it was explicitly stated that they, the White House at the time, I didn’t come till the end of July. In April, it was stated extreme protection of the vulnerable, opening up schools and businesses safely, and preventing hospital overcrowding.
There are dozens of statements by the President since then, up to even a couple of weeks ago saying explicitly, we’re going to aggressively protect the vulnerable and open up society.
Now that is not necessarily the strategy that much of the world believes in, or at least has until this point. And we know that, because we’ve seen societies repeatedly lockdown. Use prolonged lockdowns. Use terms like:
“We must hunker down. We must restrict movements. We must keep schools from opening. We must keep colleges from opening. We must test, test, test! Restrict businesses, and restrict restaurants to 25% occupancy, etc.”
As you know, that is not his policy.
Freddie Sayers: Is it the case then that the first round of lockdowns in the spring, you now, and the President now, believes were a mistake? And that you wish they hadn’t happened? Or do you think that they were necessary, but you don’t want to see them happen again?
Scott Atlas: I don’t think they were a mistake. I think we can use the “retrospective eye” on things, but in reality when this virus first was noticed, you know, there were a lot of things that were not known. In fact very little was known. You know, the estimated case fatality rate was 3, or 4%, it was 3.4%. That was a horrendous number. There were all kinds of things that needed to be done, resources were not available. No one was really prepared for something like this. It was blindsiding the entire Western world.
So, this whole concept of the 15 day, or the 30 day, shutdown was done, out of the information we had at hand. And also this concept of so called “flattening the curve”.
And I think everyone by now knows flattening the curve, although many have forgotten, flattening the curve was intended to prevent hospital overcrowding, and also use that time to help develop and produce personal protective equipment, accelerate drug development, mobilize resources for hospital capacity, personnel shifts, all kinds of things.
Freddie Sayers: Were you in favour of those at the time, on that basis?
Scott Atlas: I thought it was reasonable. The immediate short term shutdown was a reasonable policy. I mean, the models that were completely wrong in retrospect, and worst case scenarios, were frightening. And, you know, at the time, I think everyone sort of bought into this initial short term shutdown.
What happened, though, as you know, and as everyone who’s ever seen any of your tapes has known, is that that became a prolonged ill thought out and harmful policy that has stretched into months, and months, in various degrees.
That is, is the wrong policy! That I am completely opposed to! And that is a policy that the President thought was wrong, even as early as March. When, of course, that’s about when I thought it was wrong too.
Freddie Sayers: So let’s dig in a little bit to what you would actually like to see happen from now on. So, the idea is to protect those people who are at most risk from the disease, and as much as possible allow the rest of society to open up.
At least here we’ve had a similar in the UK, we’ve had a similar debate. And it’s met with the following objections. So I wonder how you respond to them.
The first is people say that:
“Immunity from Covid 19 is not a long term effect. So it will taper off after a period. So hopes of reaching a kind of widespread herd immunity are ill founded.”
What do you say to that?
Scott Atlas: I just think that the viewers have to understand that this is not like we lock down and, and hope for herd immunity, or we hope for herd immunity. That’s not the issue!
The issue is we must open up, because we’re killing people in the United States. And I know you didn’t ask me this. But I think it’s important to say right up front. This is just US numbers, and then I’ll talk about something else.
In the US it was just the data came out a few days ago, that 46% of the six most common cancers were not diagnosed during this shutdown. Okay, these people, the cancers are there, they didn’t disappear. These are people that will present to the hospital, or to their doctor, with more later stage disease, more widespread disease, many of these people will die. 650,000 Americans are on chemotherapy. Half of them didn’t come in for their chemo, because they were afraid.
You know, two thirds of screenings for cancer, were not done! Half of children, immunizations, childhood immunizations did not get done. 85% of living organ transplants did not get done.
And then we see the other harms. 200,000 cases plus of child abuse in the United States during the two months of spring school closures, were not reported, because schools are the number one agency where child abuse is noticed.
We have one out of four American, young adults, college aged adults, 25% thought of killing themselves in the month of June, due to the lockdown. This is why you open up. That is the reason to open up.
The reason, a secondary gain, might be herd immunity, or population immunity. But the reason to open up is what I’ve articulated.
And I think I want to say one more thing, which again, is never talked about in the United States. It may be, and I think it is by people like Sunetra Gupta in the UK.
And that is, that all of these harms are massive for the working class, and the lower socio-economic groups! The people who are upper class, the people who can work from home, like you’re doing right now. The people who can sip their latte and, you know, complain that their children are underfoot, or they have to come up with some extra money to hire a tutor, privately. These are people who are not impacted by the lockdowns.
But most people must go to work. Most people have no money to hire tutors. Most people are paralyzed when their children are not in school. That’s the reason to open up!
There are many things not known about this virus. There are many things not known about every single infectious disease known to man, by the way.
Now, immunity and resistance to infection and susceptibility to infection are all related. We don’t know how long someone’s immunity lasts to this. But this is a coronavirus. This is not a completely novel family. It’s in a family of viruses called Corona viruses. And Corona viruses are in the basic immunology textbooks.
And Coronavirus exposure, that typically has a year, or even a few years of immunity. So we can make a first guest that that probably, that is a good chance that will happen.
Second of all, yes, we know antibodies disappear. And there are several studies in the literature on this virus that show that antibodies are transient. But that’s true for every infection! That’s true for that’s a typical scenario. That’s not a cause for panic.
Why? Because we know that there is resistance to infection, or should I say, protection from infection, protection from severe disease. This seems to be a coming out in the literature on this disease, too. That is not necessarily due to purely antibodies. There are other components of an immune system. And it’s still being worked out in the literature.
But suffice it to say this, do we know that people have immunity, or protection? You don’t have to be a scientist to understand that when you have hundreds of millions of cases, … The estimate, the most recent estimate, I saw from John Ian Needies, a Stanford epidemiologist, is that about 10% of the world’s population has had this infection. And that means 780 million people.
And do you know how many cases of reinfection there are? At the most five! And it used to be three, until two more came out this week. In the world, three to five cases of reinfection, out of hundreds of millions of people who have had this!
So to think that we must panic, because we don’t know if people are immune!
Well, I mean, you don’t need to be a PhD, molecular biologist, to understand the common sense. And the basic immunology that we know for decades and decades, is that it is not true that there’s no immunity from this! That would be a bizarre conclusion to make, given even what we know!
Freddie Sayers: I just want to come back on actually something you said a bit earlier, which is detailing all of these terrible impacts, secondary impacts of lockdowns. I think what people, opponents, would say to is that a lot of these things are essentially impacts of the virus.
If the general public is frightened, they’re not going to come into hospital. It’s not that someone has said:
“Don’t come into hospital.”
It’s that they feel afraid.
Scott Atlas: Yes, that’s a good question. But I think that there’s an answer to that which is this is one of the biggest failures of the voices of public health in the United States, and in the world! Is that they instilled fear! They specifically instilled fear with their proclamations! Their statements that:
“Oh, we don’t know this! We don’t know that!”
As if we knew nothing about immunology! As if we knew nothing about viral infections! As if we knew nothing about Corona viruses!
In the models that were put forth, that were worst case scenario models, that were just hideously wrong! And the media that has hyped up these rare exceptions, like multi system inflammation in children, even though we know the overwhelming evidence is that this disease is not high risk for children! It’s absolutely not high risk for children!
So all of these sort of hyperbole, the sensationalising, and the failure of public health officials to articulate what we know, instead of what we don’t know, has instilled fear!
And I agree with you. It’s the fear, but the fear is due to what was said by the so called “experts”, by the media, and by the really a failure to understand that they were instilling fear, or failure to care they were instilling fear. And we see it today, every single day.
Freddie Sayers: What role do you think the President has had in this, though? You know, I mean, he has been, in the beginning he was playing it down, then he was suddenly taking it very seriously. He was not wearing a mask, and then he suddenly wore a mask, he devolved it to the Governor’s, or then he told them what to say. And then he got the disease.
Do you really think that the President has helped assuage fears with a consistent and reliable attitude to this?
Scott Atlas: Well, I think what the President tried to do, was articulate the problems with this single vision, misguided policy from the beginning, as I said. And he’s clearly had a consistent statement. Multiple, multiple statements over, over, you know, months about what he thought the policy was.
We live in a federalist system here, this is not in the authoritarian super, … It’s not supposed to be a very super powerful centralised government here. The states are run by Governors. Nothing is really supposed to be done by Federal mandate here, or at least very little is. And I think it was appropriate what the President did to say:
“Listen, you know, we, …”
I mean, actually, we could see it right now, from my last question, really. Which is, it’s appropriate for a public leader, to try to calm people down, to have an articulated, all encompassing vision of what should be done. It’s not appropriate to panic, like so many leaders did, like so many. Even some have admitted that they panicked, whether in the United States, as Governors, or in Europe and elsewhere.
It’s not appropriate. It’s never appropriate to have fear. There is no such thing as a government leader who’s competent, who instils fear in the public! So no, I disagree that the President was wrong in trying to allay fears.
Freddie Sayers: I just like to move on to the second kind of big objection to the policy you’ve outlined. Which is, it’s been talked about a lot here, which is that it sounds good to just defend, or protect people who are vulnerable, or allow them to protect themselves, and let everyone else get on with our lives. But practically, it’s impossible.
So you have multi generational families, where grandparents live with grandkids, you have schools that obviously mix everybody up into different households, you have carers who need to look after elderly people.
Do you feel like you have a detailed plan for how you could achieve protection of people, with letting other people get on with their lives.
Scott Atlas: And there’s different levels of this. The first is to put forward the guidelines. And I think our society has learned. No one knew what “social distancing” meant. No one knew, really, even though we were supposed to do that, for people who were sick with the flu, avoid symptomatic people, and be careful around elderly people. But that really was never had the microscope like this.
So that was a foreign concept. And we now understand that. But there are more specific measures. And what the United States has done. And you know, tried to do, and it’s imperfect, of course, is focus on first the nursing home. So we have shipped every single nursing home, point of care, rapid testing. And we need to test the people who enter the nursing homes, because that’s how the infections get in.
So we have mandated weekly testing of every staff who enters a nursing home. But every time there’s community increase, whether it’s by clinical criteria of people going to the emergency rooms, or testing, either one, we recommend going up to two times a week, three times a week, four times a week for staffing.
We have hooked up our nursing homes with infection control, mentoring programmes with hospitals. Because nursing homes don’t do that, like hospitals do.
We have incorporated surge testing into nursing homes. We have sent tens of millions of tests to senior centres where people don’t live, but they seniors frequent two times a week, three times a week.
We have an alert system that we tried to do in communities where seniors with high comorbidities live, because everybody over 65 in the US has government insurance.
So yes, there are specific measurements we’ve taken. But it’s been difficult.
Freddie Sayers: So I think you can see how that would work, just about, with a nursing home, if they had the tests. And if they had the capacity.
But if you’re a grandmother, vulnerable grandmother, living with a student who is either at high school, or college, coming in and out every day with friends, how can you possibly protect that elderly person?
Scott Atlas: Okay, well, we can do our best. We cannot guarantee that we can protect everybody. There’s no such thing as no risk in life. But not to minimise that. We’ve had 200,000 people die here. It’s very serious and tragic. And I know people who have died, and I understand that.
But we have to educate people. We have sensitised everyone to making sure, … I think it’s, you would have to have not been living on this planet, to not understand social distancing guidelines for hygiene. If you’re going to be in close proximity to someone who’s high risk, you might want to wear a mask. There’s all kinds of things to do. And we have incorporated that.
We have also done a lot of monitoring of communities. We have, like I, say targeted where the seniors live, meaning non residential, but in their communities. Because in the US, senior citizens typically have a social life where they interact with others in these community centres. We have shipped a lot of testing to there. Tens of millions of state of the art Point of Care testing. We’re not just sitting here doing nothing.
The other hand, you know, we there is a certain amount of, of issues on other levels. I’ll give you an example. I have a 93 year old mother-in-law. And she said to me two months ago:
“I’m not interested in being confined in my home. I’m not interested in that living, if that’s the life.”
This is somebody who’s totally independent. She said:
“I’m old enough to take a risk. I understand social distancing. I’m going to function otherwise, there’s no reason to live.”
And so this sort of bizarre, maybe well intentioned, but misguided idea that we’re going to eliminate all risks from life, we’re going to stop people from taking any risk, that they are well aware of, we’re going to close down businesses, we’re going to stop schools, these are inappropriate and destructive policies!
And I think we have to always remember that. We don’t shut down society. Because there’s a massive costs of that. And I’m not talking about financial, I’m talking about life lost! Years of life lost! Destructive, destructive policies!
So okay, there are risks. You know, we know that. But we have to function. And I think most people understand that.
Freddie Sayers: You are at the Hoover Institution in Stanford, which is a kind of Right leaning organisation. You advised Mitt Romney, and obviously, you’re now advising President Trump. And there’s a political aspect to this, isn’t there?
For people who are of a more libertarian viewpoint, who put a greater emphasis on individual freedom, will tend to support your view, while people who think that collective action is more effective response to this kind of thing, will tend to support greater restrictions. Do you see this as a political question?
Scott Atlas: I see that there is a different philosophy in life. I, you know, in my own family, we have different views on certain things.
But I think we have to start by looking at the facts and the data. And you know, one thing that’s been sort of really shocking to me is in the US, and I think all over the world, we have some really contaminated media. Their politics has really distorted truth, in that used to be something that I was proud of in the US, as an American, that the truth will come out, because the media was aggressive with finding the truth. I think that’s changed. And it’ undeniable that there’s a tremendous amount of bias in the media.
And this is leading into your question. I think that has now contaminated public policy and science. There’s been a massive distortion! A complete, almost disregard, for objectivity in certain places, including some of what were the world’s best journals, like Lancet, New England, Journal, Nature, Science.
I mean, these people feel compelled to be politically visible. And I just think that’s contaminated the discussion. And a lot of the papers that have been published had been what I call “garbage” in my limited vocabulary. Because when you look at the real methods section of these papers, they’ve been really poorly done, yet they are given the imprimatur of these journals.
Now, the politics of discussion here, as I sort of am circuitously getting to, really comes down to first and foremost, what is the data? Okay? And that data has been ignored! There are people that started out in March, April, saying:
“Okay, we need to lock down. We need to stop asymptomatic cases from spreading. This is how we’re going to go about doing things.”
And then, when we know that now, there are 7 million registered cases in the US, but even the CDC says it’s probably tenfold that. That’s 70 million, at least. We look at the world’s cases, maybe 40 million cases, but we know that it’s probably 10 to 20 times that. And so that’s not, it’s not, it’s not possible to start doing things like contact tracing and isolating asymptomatic people.
And we also have learned the harms the enormous harms of doing that kind of policy. So, that’s part of the data.
Okay, so the data really isn’t just what does the fatality rate. And by the way, we know the fatality rate for people under 70 is 0.05, rather than 3.4, or 10 fold, or something like that. All these things are learned. We know so much more about this now. We have to get a grip on what we’re doing here.
And it’s not a political philosophy, it’s reality! You know, a lot of these people who have what I call very fancy CVs have engaged in very sloppy thinking. And now, because I believe partly, because it’s a political year in the United States, which has massively polarised the electorate, the politics has entered the scene.
And there’s a tremendous amount of sort of digging in to the original beliefs, even though they’re completely wrong. It’s been proven wrong, what was suggested!
There’s there’s a adherence to this, partly from the politics partly, because whatever. Listen, when I came into the administration, my position here is not political. Zero politics! My motivation was the President of the United States, asked me, a public health care, a health care policy person who understands medical science, to help in the biggest health care crisis in the century.
And there’d be something wrong with you, if you would say no to that. No matter what your politics. My position is not political. My position is looking at the data, figuring out the right policy.
And so when I did that, though, I knew I would be vilified. Because in the United States, you know, there’s a lot of people who think that this President is radioactive. And so there is a massive destruction that ensues immediately when you associate with this President.
And that’s just a very sad statement on America. It’s a very sad statement on American culture. It’s a very sad statement on the world, because I see it in the international news, too, of course. These people are blinded people. I’m saying, you know, scientists, many of whom are blinded to the data, because they despise the political side of this, and they’re digging in. And they have a massive, I just want to finish it, they have a massive ego!
And these people can’t admit they’re wrong. And so, when they’re challenged, and I find, okay, I’m a contrarian, I’m used to being a contrarian. I’m proud of being a contrarian. I’m proud of being an outlier, when they, when the inliers are wrong! And so, I have no problem with it. I’m talking about the data here. I have zero political motivation to come here and do this. In fact, it’s to my own personal detriment to be here. But that doesn’t matter, because I’m trying to help the country.
Freddie Sayers: Are you angry? You sound a little bit angry about the attitude?
Scott Atlas: Okay, I’ve gone through various levels of being angry. I’m not angry! I’m sort of disgusted and dismayed at the state of things!
You know, I have a massive amount of support. It’s just sad to me. It’s more that I’m, I’m cynical about the state we are in right now, and the future. And it’s not you’re angry, as much as disturbed.
And I have children of my own, who are in their 20s. And I just wonder what the future is if we have lost truth in the media, to great extent. And we have now starting to lose truth in science! I mean, I don’t know what kind of a future that that holds for people that are young.
Freddie Sayers: In less than, well, three weeks, we have a presidential election. If the polls are even half right, President Trump will be out of office. What’s the prognosis? I mean, if Joe Biden becomes President. What do you think happens as regards the Coronavirus policy?
Scott Atlas: That’s a good question. I, you know, I’ve heard proclamations like, sort of:
“Listen to the science.”
I mean, that’s one of the biggest, you know, misconceptions about the President, that he doesn’t listen to the science. We have, as you know, 9,000 medical scientists and epidemiologists just sort of aligned very closely with this protected, you know, vulnerable and open society policy, the so called Great Barrington Declaration, which is the gist of their policy. Thousands of scientists agree with the President. And the President has always listened to the scientists.
But the other side somehow says:
“Listen to the science. We’ll maybe consider another lockdown and mandatory universal masks.”
That’s their policy.
I think it’s very sad. It’s completely contrary to the science. It’s fear mongering, and it shows a lack of insight into what’s going on over the past seven, eight, months.
So I fear for the country if that is the policy direction here. The country should not be locking down! It cannot be locking down! And things like universal mask wearing, honestly, I mean, that is just completely contrary to the science, as well, as commonsense! To think that you must wear a mask when you’re in the middle of a desert, when you’re in your car alone driving, when you’re bicycling through, you know, St James Park, you know, this kind of stuff is nonsense!
Freddie Sayers: Would you don’t mandate masks, anywhere?
Scott Atlas: Absolutely not widespread mask mandates! They, you know, there’s the you can look at LA County, and Los Angeles here. Miami Dade County, many states in the US, the Philippines, Spain, France, the UK, all over the world. Mandating masks for the population does not stop cases! That is just super naive, wrong, and just, that’s garbage science, really. And there is no science to support that.
And the WHO does not recommend widespread mandatory masks. The NIH does not recommend that. The CDC data itself shows that that doesn’t work. So that’s sort of bordering on carrying, wearing, a copper bracelet, as far as I’m concerned.
You know, I do think that masks have a role. And that’s in medicine. We wear masks for surgical procedures. And the reason you wear a mask is when you’re very close to somebody, or a sterile environment, like an open incision, you want to stop a cough, you want to stop droplets from getting in and infecting something.
But that’s very different from breathing around the a piece of cloth, or even a medical mask. You know, that that just there’s no evidence that if you’re not, if you’re socially distance, there’s no reason to wear a mask.
If you’re in a subway, I’m just talking practically here. If you’re in a subway, you’re in the Tube in London, and you’re a high risk person. Okay, I would, I’d be afraid, I probably wouldn’t even go into the subway if I were a high risk person in London. But I would contemplate, I would use a mask for close proximity to somebody who might cough on me, or I might cough on to. Yes.
So I think there’s a reasonable policy about masks, but widespread universal masks, that is pseudoscience!
Freddie Sayers: It may all be over for you, at least in this chapter, in a few weeks time. You then return to a university campus that is somewhat treating you like a bit of a pariah. There are big letters being written by your fellow academics against what you were saying in public.
What’s life going to be like for you wandering down the street of Stanford in late November, if the President loses?
Scott Atlas: Yeah! That’s a good question. You know, I think people again, like they expose themselves for who they were when they wrote that letter. You know, I didn’t like the letter. It’s embarrassing to them. I mean, it’s preposterous what was said!
And, you know, I have a massive amount of support from many of the world’s top scientists and epidemiologists.
By the way, I’ve been working with them for 6, 7, 8 months. It’s not, it’s ludicrous to think otherwise.
But in any event, you know, I have a lot of support inside Hoover Institution. I’ve had a lot of support from the faculty. It’s ironic that I work with the two top, and maybe the three top medical science, infectious disease doctors, at the School of Medicine. They didn’t sign that letter. A bunch of people who were not experts signed the letter. So that’s sort of separate.
I certainly have lost some friends. There’s no question about that.
Would I do it all over again? Absolutely! This is the most important thing I’ve ever done. Again, you’re not in academic, you know, health policy to write papers, you’re there to have impact on public policy. And the President, and I feel the country, needed good people. Because if the good people don’t step up, then who’s left? And so, ..
Freddie Sayers: It almost sounds like a political slogan there. I mean, are you have you got a taste for it? Do you think there’s potentially a political career for Scott Atlas, in the future?
Scott Atlas: I have a taste for it. But unfortunately, it’s a bad taste! I’m not going to do anything in politics. I’m disgusted by politics! Completely disgusted!
And I’m saddened by, again, it’s a sad statement on the people. I feel that people were exposed when someone came into power that they didn’t agree with, they were exposed for who they were. And that’s a gross embarrassment. It’s, you know, it’s sad.
So, you know, I never thought I would think that there are more rational places in the world to live than the United States, because I’m proud to be an American. I’m proud of people who are independent thinkers. But a lot of that has changed.
I think that there’s a lot of “group think” going on. It’s a tremendous amount of emotion, rather than, you know, a rational thought. And it’s been harmful.
So, I don’t know what my future holds. But I absolutely do not, ..
Freddie Sayers: Is that a hint that you would leave the country?
Scott Atlas: You know, I always do a lot of travelling as an invited speaker. Before this part of my life, I was an invited professor, you know, in many places. And I think the world is sort of, the world is big. I don’t know what I’ll do.
You know, I love certain parts of my life in the US. But I’m also, you know, I’m sort of sad about certain things in the US, how they evolved. And you know, we’ll see. I’m not going to run for office. I can tell you that!
Freddie Sayers: Fair enough! Well, it sounds like you might not be rushing back to Stanford to spend all your time there, in any case. We shall see what happens in the next few weeks. Dr. Atlas. Thanks for talking to us.
Scott Atlas: Okay, thanks for having me.
Freddie Sayers: That was Dr. Scott Atlas, adviser to President Trump and a member of the Coronavirus Task Force talking about his view on the pandemic and what a responsible policy would look like.
We shall see what happens in the next few weeks.
Thanks for tuning in. This was LockdownTV.
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