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Stanford faculty demand university sanctions for Trump adviser and faculty member Scott Atlas

Scott Atlas; Donald Trump
Scott Atlas; Donald Trump

US President Donald Trump (L) listens to White House coronavirus adviser Dr. Scott Atlas speak during a press conference in the Brady Briefing Room of the White House on September 23, 2020, in Washington, DC. MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images

This article originally appeared here on Salon.com

Scott Atlas, one of President Trump’s special coronavirus advisers and a faculty member at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution in Palo Alto, Calif., is causing a minor fracas among students and faculty at the elite university. Specifically, Atlas’ recommendations on coronavirus public health measures fly in the face of scientific consensus, faculty says — a charge that Atlas denies, and which he has threatened litigation over.  

During a Faculty Senate meeting at Stanford University late last month, the college’s president and provost were asked whether Dr. Scott Atlas should face university sanctions for positions he has taken about the novel coronavirus pandemic that go against the scientific consensus. (As the faculty noted, Atlas is a neuroradiologist, not an epidemiologist or a scholar of infectious disease.) At the meeting, similar questions were raised about the university’s relationship with the Hoover Institution, where Atlas is a senior fellow. The Hoover Institution is a conservative think tank located on Stanford’s campus that has supported a laundry list of prominent right-wing statesmen over the years, from Condoleezza Rice to Reagan Secretary of State George Shultz. 

Unsurprisingly given the politics of his employer, Atlas’ public statements tend to delight conservatives and alarm scientists who study public health and infectious diseases. Atlas recently tweeted that masks do not work to prevent infection (an unsupported claim, and one which Twitter wound up taking down for being misleading); previously, he claimed publicly that the threat of the coronavirus is greatly exaggerated. Atlas also claimed that summer civil rights protests were to blame for coronavirus outbreaks, as well as proximity to the U.S.-Mexico border, two more claims for which there is no evidence.

Despite being described by Trump as “one of the great experts of the world,” Atlas is reported to not have expertise in infectious disease mitigation or public health. Most recently, Atlas raised eyebrows last week for appearing on Russian state broadcaster RT, which is registered with the Justice Department as an agent of the Russian government.

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David Spiegel, a medicine professor and associate chair of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, claimed during the late October meeting (which occurred before the RT interview) that Atlas is the “latest member of the Hoover Institution to disseminate incorrect and unscientific information about the coronavirus pandemic,” according to Stanford News. He also accused Atlas of violating the American Medical Association’s Code of Ethics and claimed that he may have additionally violated Stanford’s Code of Conduct.

University President Marc Tessier-Lavigne responded by citing the college’s Statement on Academic Freedom, although the provost acknowledged the validity of engineering professor Stephen Monismith’s concern about a New York Times report that some of Trump’s senior economic advisers had

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Top Trump adviser bluntly contradicts president on covid-19 threat, urging all-out response

A top White House coronavirus adviser sounded alarms Monday about a new and deadly phase in the health crisis, pleading with top administration officials for “much more aggressive action,” even as President Trump continues to assure rallygoers the nation is “rounding the turn” on the pandemic.



Deborah Birx wearing a suit and tie: Deborah Birx delivers remarks on the pandemic in the White House last April. (Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)


Deborah Birx delivers remarks on the pandemic in the White House last April. (Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)

“We are entering the most concerning and most deadly phase of this pandemic … leading to increasing mortality,” said the Nov. 2 report from Deborah Birx, coordinator of the White House coronavirus task force. “This is not about lockdowns — It hasn’t been about lockdowns since March or April. It’s about an aggressive balanced approach that is not being implemented.”

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Birx’s internal report, shared with top White House and agency officials, contradicts Trump on numerous points: While the president holds large campaign events with hundreds of attendees, most without masks, she explicitly warns against them. While the president blames rising cases on more testing, she says testing is “flat or declining” in many areas where cases are rising. And while Trump says the country is “rounding the turn,” Birx notes the country is entering its most dangerous period yet and will see more than 100,000 new cases a day this week.

Through a spokesperson, Birx did not respond to a request for comment.

Other health experts, including Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, have warned of record surges in cases and hospitalizations as the United States records more than 9 million cases and 230,000 deaths. “We’re in for a whole lot of hurt,” Fauci told The Washington Post late Friday, predicting a long and potentially deadly winter unless there’s an “abrupt change” — prompting Trump to suggest he planned to fire the scientist after the election.

But Birx’s daily missives go further, revealing how much the administration’s internal reports are in direct conflict with Trump’s public pronouncements that downplay the seriousness of the threat and erroneously suggest few people are dying. They also speak to the increasing desperation of health officials to spotlight the risks of a pandemic that is forecast to take thousands more lives as the weather worsens unless people change their behaviors.

The increasingly dire tone of her reports has gotten little traction, according to an administration official who works with Birx and spoke on the condition of anonymity to share sensitive information. “She feels like she’s being ignored,” the official said.

Birx’s message “has been urgent for weeks,” said another administration official, “as has the plea for the administration to ask the American people to use masks, avoid gatherings and socially distance, basically since it became apparent that we were heading into a third surge.”

The report hits hard on the worsening situation: “Cases are rapidly rising in nearly 30 percent of all USA counties, the highest number of county hotspots we have seen with this pandemic,” it said. “Half of the United States is

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Top Trump adviser pleads for ‘more aggressive action’ against covid-19, even as president downplays threat

A top White House coronavirus adviser sounded alarms Monday about a new and deadly phase in the health crisis, pleading with top administration officials for “much more aggressive action,” even as President Trump continues to assure rallygoers the nation is “rounding the turn” on the pandemic.



Deborah Birx wearing a suit and tie: Deborah Birx delivers remarks on the pandemic in the White House last April. (Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)


Deborah Birx delivers remarks on the pandemic in the White House last April. (Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)

“We are entering the most concerning and most deadly phase of this pandemic … leading to increasing mortality,” said the Nov. 2 report from Deborah Birx, coordinator of the White House coronavirus task force. “This is not about lockdowns — It hasn’t been about lockdowns since March or April. It’s about an aggressive balanced approach that is not being implemented.”

Birx’s internal report, shared with top White House and agency officials, contradicts Trump on numerous points: While the president holds large campaign events with hundreds of attendees, most without masks, she explicitly warns against them. While the president blames rising cases on more testing, she says testing is “flat or declining” in many areas where cases are rising. And while Trump says the country is “rounding the turn,” Birx notes the country is entering its most dangerous period yet and will see more than 100,000 new cases a day this week.

Through a spokesperson, Birx did not respond to a request for comment.

Other experts, including Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, have warned of record surges in cases and hospitalizations as the United States records more than 9 million cases and 230,000 deaths. “We’re in for a whole lot of hurt,” Fauci told The Washington Post late Friday, predicting a long and potentially deadly winter unless there’s an “abrupt change” — prompting Trump to suggest he planned to fire the scientist after the election.

But Birx’s daily missives go much further, revealing how much the administration’s internal reports are in direct conflict with Trump’s public pronouncements that downplay the seriousness of the threat and erroneously suggest few people are dying. They also speak to the increasing desperation of health officials to spotlight the risks of a pandemic that is forecast to take thousands more lives as the weather worsens unless people change their behaviors.

The increasingly dire tone of her reports has gotten little traction, according to an administration official who works with Birx and spoke on the condition of anonymity to share sensitive information. “She feels like she’s being ignored,” the official said.

Birx’s message “has been urgent for weeks,” said another administration official, “as has the plea for the administration to ask the American people to use masks, avoid gatherings and socially distance, basically since it became apparent that we were heading into a third surge.”

The report hits hard on the worsening situation: “Cases are rapidly rising in nearly 30 percent of all USA counties, the highest number of county hotspots we have seen with this pandemic,” it said. “Half of the United States is in

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health

Political adviser sparked COVID-19 outbreak on VP Pence team

By Alexandra Alper and Jeff Mason

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A political adviser to U.S. Vice President Mike Pence is suspected of sparking an outbreak of the coronavirus on his team that sidelined a senior official days before the presidential election, according to a current White House official and a former official familiar with the matter.

Marty Obst, a political strategist for Pence, was determined by contact tracers from the White House Medical Unit to be the likely origin of the outbreak, the two people said.

Obst did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

Obst, who does not draw a government salary, accompanied Pence to rallies in Bangor, Maine and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania on Monday, Oct. 19, the White House official said.

“If you had to pick a patient zero it was Marty and he brought it in from the outside,” the White House official said, declining to be named since he was not authorized to speak on the matter.

A spokesman for Pence said Marc Short, Pence’s chief of staff, had tested positive for the coronavirus over the weekend. Pence, who has faced criticism for keeping a busy campaign schedule despite being considered a close contact of Short, has tested negative in the days since.

The outbreak on Pence’s team, which follows closely on the heels of a flurry of cases in President Donald Trump’s inner circle, comes as coronavirus infections and hospitalizations are surging across the country.

That has kept Trump’s handling of the virus in the headlines ahead of the Nov. 3 election. Polls show Trump trailing Democratic rival and former Vice President Joe Biden, who is consistently seen by likely voters as better able to handle the pandemic.

In an interview with Reuters on Tuesday, Short defended the decision to keep Pence, the head of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, traveling in the final days of the campaign despite his possible exposure. 

He noted the White House had encouraged other essential workers, such as ‘blue collar’ meat packers, to keep working even if they had close contact with someone later diagnosed with COVID-19, so they had set the same example. 

“I think we’re actually following the guidelines that we established,” Short said, noting that he had experienced symptoms akin to a head cold but now felt good.

While Short was not deemed a close contact of Obst and continued with his regular schedule following Obst’s positive tests, three junior staffers who have since tested positive for the virus were already in quarantine due to exposure to Obst, a third person familiar with the matter said.

The person, who declined to be named, added that Pence has introduced new safety protocols, like wearing a mask on Marine 2, the helicopter that carries the vice president. The source said Pence remains masked and in his cabin during flights on Air Force 2, the name given to any plane carrying him.

“We have canceled regional interviews. He goes straight from the plane onto the stage. He

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Pence’s Chief of Staff, Campaign Adviser Test Positive for Coronavirus

Vice President Mike Pence speaking to supporters Saturday in Tallahassee.



Photo:

Steve Cannon/Associated Press

WASHINGTON—Vice President Mike Pence’s chief of staff Marc Short and a campaign adviser have tested positive for Covid-19, but with just days left until Election Day, President Trump’s running mate will continue to maintain his schedule, Mr. Pence’s spokesman said in a statement.

Mr. Pence, the head of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, considers himself to be a close contact of Mr. Short, who tested positive on Saturday, according to a statement from Pence spokesman Devin O’Malley.

Marty Obst, Mr. Pence’s longtime political adviser, also recently tested positive, according to people familiar with the matter.

The vice president, who tested negative on Saturday along with his wife, has decided not to quarantine, Mr. O’Malley said. Mr. Pence consulted with White House medical staff, and will instead follow guidelines for “essential personnel.” Mr. Pence’s office declined additional comment.

According to guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the close contact of a person infected with Covid-19 should quarantine “even if you test negative” because symptoms may appear 2 to 14 days after exposure to the virus.

Mr. Pence is scheduled to campaign in North Carolina on Sunday and in Minnesota on Monday.

The announcement of the positive tests comes three weeks after President Trump and multiple members of his staff tested positive for coronavirus. Mr. Trump’s infection required a three-night stay in the hospital. He returned to the campaign trail 11 days after his initial positive test.

Coronavirus in the White House

Write to Michael C. Bender at [email protected]

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Trump’s Operation Warp Speed adviser says all Americans could be immunized by June

Most Americans may have access to a COVID-19 vaccine by early this spring, one which could potentially immunize them by June, according to Operation Warp Speed’s chief adviser, Dr. Moncef Slaoui.



a hand holding a blue toothbrush: A medical syringe is inserted into a small bottle labeled "Vaccine COVID-19" in this illustration taken April 10, 2020.


© Dado Ruvic/Reuters
A medical syringe is inserted into a small bottle labeled “Vaccine COVID-19” in this illustration taken April 10, 2020.

“It’s not a certainty, but the plan — and I feel pretty confident — should make it such that by June, everybody could have been immunized in the U.S.,” Slaoui told ABC News’ Bob Woodruff Wednesday morning.

President Donald Trump’s Operation Warp Speed is an effort created to accelerate a vaccine rollout without sacrificing safety. The program has pumped billions of dollars into numerous pharmaceutical companies in hopes of developing one or more safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines. The money is intended to help ramp up development, trials and manufacturing while removing financial risk from the companies, in case the vaccines don’t work out.

Despite the rapid pace of vaccine development, Slaoui said he has not received any improper pressure from the White House to expedite the process beyond what he considers safe.

“I’ve had absolutely no pressure, really, no pressure,” Slaoui said, adding that he would have quit if that were the case. “And I have [always] said, if I get undue pressure, I will say it and I will resign.”

Slaoui said the pharmaceutical companies Moderna and Pfizer are likely to be the first with vaccine candidates to apply for emergency use authorization by the Food and Drug Administration, possibly as soon as November or December. If a vaccine is authorized before the end of the year, Slaoui said approximately 20 to 40 million doses of it will be stockpiled and ready for distribution for a limited population.

MORE: UK launching controversial vaccine trials where volunteers will be infected with the coronavirus

“Then we can start immunizing the highest risk people, front-line workers, the health care workers, before the end of the year,” Slaoui told ABC News. “Now, not every one in that population can be immunized in December, but the companies will continue to manufacture and produce vaccine doses — and in January, we plan to have about 60 to 80 million doses of those two vaccines.”

Slaoui said AstraZeneca’s clinical trial is due to resume in the U.S. “imminently.”

This comes as clinical trials for both AstraZeneca’s vaccine were put on regulatory hold by the FDA and pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine candidate were put on a voluntary pause to investigate why certain volunteers developed unexplained illnesses during the trial. AstraZeneca has already resumed its trials in Europe and elsewhere in the world.



a hand holding a toothbrush: A medical syringe is inserted into a small bottle labeled "Vaccine COVID-19" in this illustration taken April 10, 2020.


© Dado Ruvic/Reuters
A medical syringe is inserted into a small bottle labeled “Vaccine COVID-19” in this illustration taken April 10, 2020.

But halting the two late-stage clinical trials may have caused some vaccine skepticism, despite most scientists saying it’s a sign the process is working, and pointing out that many clinical trials are slowed to investigate potential

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Trump’s Operation Warp Speed adviser says all Americans could be immunized with COVID vaccine by June

Moncef Slaoui is encouraging people to volunteer for vaccine trials.

Most Americans may have access to a COVID-19 vaccine by early this spring, one which could potentially immunize them by June, according to Operation Warp Speed’s chief adviser, Dr. Moncef Slaoui.

“It’s not a certainty, but the plan — and I feel pretty confident — should make it such that by June, everybody could have been immunized in the U.S.,” Slaoui told ABC News’ Bob Woodruff Wednesday morning.

Despite the rapid pace of vaccine development, Slaoui said he has not received any improper pressure from the White House to expedite the process beyond what he considers safe.

“I’ve had absolutely no pressure, really, no pressure,” Slaoui said, adding that he would have quit if that were the case. “And I have [always] said, if I get undue pressure, I will say it and I will resign.”

Slaoui said the pharmaceutical companies Moderna and Pfizer are likely to be the first with vaccine candidates to apply for emergency use authorization by the Food and Drug Administration, possibly as soon as November or December. If a vaccine is authorized before the end of the year, Slaoui said approximately 20 to 40 million doses of it will be stockpiled and ready for distribution for a limited population.

Slaoui said AstraZeneca’s clinical trial is due to resume in the U.S. “imminently.”

This comes as clinical trials for both AstraZeneca’s vaccine were put on regulatory hold by the FDA and pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine candidate were put on a voluntary pause to investigate why certain volunteers developed unexplained illnesses during the trial. AstraZeneca has already resumed its trials in Europe and elsewhere in the world.

PHOTO: A medical syringe is inserted into a small bottle labeled "Vaccine COVID-19" in this illustration taken April 10, 2020.

A medical syringe is inserted into a small bottle labeled “Vaccine COVID-19” in this illustration taken April 10, 2020.

But halting the two late-stage clinical trials may have caused some vaccine skepticism, despite most scientists saying it’s a sign the process is working, and pointing out that many

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Twitter blocks post by top Trump pandemic adviser [Video]

Twitter on Sunday removed what it called a “misleading” tweet posted by a top coronavirus adviser to President Donald Trump who questioned the effectiveness of masks to combat the pandemic.

Dr. Scott Atlas, a White House adviser who’s pushed back against the guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and other health experts, on Saturday tweeted, “Masks work? NO.”

Twitter said the post violated a policy on misleading information on COVID-19.

The White House had no immediate comment.

The CDC Director last month praised mask-wearing, and the University of Washington forecasts widespread mask use could save thousands of lives.

But the clash over coronavirus messaging comes as the Trump administration appears unwilling to press for stern mitigation efforts.

Former FDA Commissioner Scott Gotlieb characterized the U.S. response as essentially, weather the storm.

“And if you look at the White House strategy, they’ve come out against universal masking. They’ve come out against testing asymptomatic and mildly symptomatic people. They say testing should be reserved just to the vulnerable. They want businesses and schools reopened, as we all do, and they’re against targeted mitigation like closing restaurants. So it begs the question, what is the strategy? And I think the strategy is just to endure the spread until we get to that vaccine.”

Meanwhile the pandemic is surging to alarming levels across the United States.

According to a Reuters analysis the U.S. reported nearly 70,000 new cases on Friday. Total U.S. cases surpassed 8 million last week.

And the worst may yet be ahead.

“We have two or three very hard months ahead of us. I think this is probably going to be the hardest phase of this pandemic. The good news is that we have a lot- a lot of medical treatments and better medical care so we’re going to do a better job of preserving life. The bad news is I think we’re going to end up infecting a lot more people.”

Despite data showing otherwise, Trump has said repeatedly in recent weeks that the country is “rounding the corner” on the coronavirus pandemic.

On Sunday, Trump again attributed the latest surge in coronavirus cases to more testing, but health experts cite increases in hospitalizations and the rates at which people are testing positive for the virus to show cases are indeed rising.

Video Transcript

Twitter on Sunday removed what it called a misleading tweet posted by a top coronavirus advisor to President Donald Trump, who questioned the effectiveness of masks to combat the pandemic. Doctor Scott Atlas, a White House advisor who’s pushed back against the guidance from the US Centers for Disease Control and other health experts, on Saturday tweeted, “Masks work? No.” Twitter said the post violated a policy on misleading information on COVID-19. The White House had no immediate comment.

The CDC director last month praised mask wearing.

ROBERT REDFIELD: Face masks– these face masks are the most important, powerful public-health tool we have.

And the University of Washington forecasts widespread

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UK needs three-week lockdown for COVID reset: adviser

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain needs to impose a three-week period of national lockdown restrictions immediately to stop cases of COVID-19 spiralling, government scientific adviser Jeremy Farrar said, adding that current regional measures would not be effective.

“The current tiered restrictions will not bring the transmission rates down sufficiently or prevent the continued spread of the virus,” he said.

“A three-week period of nationally increased restrictions, with the right levels of financial support, will allow us to reset before winter, stop transmission spiralling, protect and prepare health services, give time to get the test-trace-isolate systems fully functional, and save lives,” he said.

Farrar, who is director of the Wellcome Trust and a member of the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies, said the response needed to be immediate because putting it off would only worsen and lengthen the crisis.

He told Sky News that the best time to have locked down was two to three weeks ago, but it wasn’t too late now.

Senior minister Michael Gove, however, said a two- or three- week national lockdown – named a “circuit breaker” by some – was not being considered.

“The spread and the nature of the disease does not merit that approach at the moment,” he told Sky News on Sunday.

Gove did concede that there were problems with the level of compliance with the rules already in place for those who tested positive for COVID-19.

He said the level of government support available for those who were required to self-isolate was kept under constant review.

Reporting by Paul Sandle; Editing by Kirsten Donovan

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UK needs three-week lockdown for COVID reset: government adviser

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain needs to impose a three-week period of national lockdown restrictions immediately to stop cases of COVID-19 spiralling, government scientific adviser Jeremy Farrar said, adding that current regional measures would not be effective.

“The current tiered restrictions will not bring the transmission rates down sufficiently or prevent the continued spread of the virus,” he said.

“A three-week period of nationally increased restrictions, with the right levels of financial support, will allow us to reset before winter, stop transmission spiralling, protect and prepare health services, give time to get the test-trace-isolate systems fully functional, and save lives,” he said.

Farrar, who is director of the Wellcome Trust and a member of the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies, said the response needed to be immediate because putting it off would only worsen and lengthen the crisis.

He told Sky News that the best time to have locked down was two to three weeks ago, but it wasn’t too late now.

Senior minister Michael Gove, however, said a two- or three- week national lockdown – named a “circuit breaker” by some – was not being considered.

“The spread and the nature of the disease does not merit that approach at the moment,” he told Sky News on Sunday.

Gove did concede that there were problems with the level of compliance with the rules already in place for those who tested positive for COVID-19.

He said the level of government support available for those who were required to self-isolate was kept under constant review.

(Reporting by Paul Sandle; Editing by Kirsten Donovan)

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