Trump makes call for new White House doctor's virus advice

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FILE - In this Aug. 12, 2020, file photo Scott Atlas, senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, speaks at a news conference in the James Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House in Washington. Trump has announced that Dr. Scott Atlas, a frequent guest on Fox News channel, has joined the White House as a pandemic adviser.(AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)

WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump has found a new doctor for his coronavirus task force — and this time there's no daylight between them.

Trump last week announced that Dr. Scott Atlas, a frequent guest on Fox News Channel, has joined the White House as a pandemic adviser. Atlas, the former chief of neuroradiology at Stanford University Medical Center and a fellow at Stanford's conservative Hoover Institution, has no expertise in public health or infectious diseases.

But he has long been a critic of coronavirus lockdowns and has campaigned for kids to return to the classroom and for the return of college sports, just like Trump.

“Scott is a very famous man who’s also very highly respected," Trump told reporters as he introduced the addition. “He has many great ideas and he thinks what we’ve done is really good.”

Atlas' hiring comes amid ongoing tensions between the president and Drs. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious diseases expert, and Deborah Birx, the task force's coordinator. While Birx remains closely involved in the administration's pandemic response, both she and Fauci have publicly contradicted the rosy picture the president has painted of a virus that has now killed more than 167,000 people in the United States and infected millions nationwide.

Atlas, the sole doctor to share the stage at Trump's pandemic briefings this past week, has long questioned polices that have been embraced by public health experts both in the U.S. and abroad. He has called it a “good thing” for younger, healthy people to be exposed to the virus, while falsely claiming children are at near “zero risk."

In an April op-ed in The Hill newspaper, Atlas bemoaned that lockdowns may have prevented the development of “natural herd immunity."

“In the absence of immunization, society needs circulation of the virus, assuming high-risk people can be isolated," he wrote.