DR SCOTT ATLAS on COVID-19 (2020.10.20)

Dr Scott W. Atlas, Senior Fellow at The Harvard Institution, Stanford University.

• “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’.”

• “It is 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. … I’ve mentioned this radioactive word called ‘herd immunity’. But that’s not a strategy that anyone is pursuing.”

• “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.”

• “The President said in the third week of March that the cure cannot be worse than the disease. In April, the White House released a formal ‘Opening Up America’ document, which included extreme protection of the vulnerable and opening up society.”

• “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. This is the topic, this is why you open up. A secondary gain might be population immunity, but this is the reason to open up.”

• “Do you know how many cases of reinfection there are? At the most, five in the world. It is not true that there is no immunity to this, that would be a bizarre conclusion.”

• “This is one of the biggest failures of the voices of public health in the United States and in the world — they specifically instilled fear with their proclamations and statements. And the models that were put forward that were worst case scenarios and 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 absolutely not high risk for children. All the hyperbole, the sensationalising and the failure of public health officials to articulate what we know instead of what we don’t know. The fear is due to what was said by the so-called experts, by the media, and by a failure to understand or care that they were instilling fear. I just heard a famous epidemiologist from Harvard the other day say that to have the idea of herd immunity even being discussed is ‘mass murder’ — these kinds of statements are hideously outrageous. It’s never appropriate to have fear. There is no such thing as a government leader who is competent who instils fear.”

• “We cannot guarantee that we can protect everybody — there is no such thing as zero risk in life.”

• “I have a 93 year old mother-in-law, and she said to me, 2 months ago, ‘I’m not interested in being confined in my home. I am not interested in living if that’s the life. I’m old enough to take a risk, I understand social distancing. I’m going to function, otherwise there’s no reason to live.’ This sort of bizarre, maybe well-intentioned but misguided idea that we are going to eliminate all risk from life, we are 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. There are between 30,000 and 90,000 people a year that die — that are high risk elderly — in the United States every flu season. We don’t shut down schools in response to that.”

• “We need to start by looking at the data. One thing that’s been really shocking to me is that in the US and I think all over the world, we have a really contaminated media. Their politics has really distorted truth. I think that has now contaminated public policy and science. There’s been a massive distortion — a complete almost disregard for objectivity, including in some of what were the world’s best journals like Lancet, New England Journal, Nature, Science: these people feel compelled to be politically visible, and that’s contaminated the discussion.”

• “Partly because it’s a political year in the US with a massively polarised electorate, the politics have entered the scene, and there’s a massive amount of digging in to the original beliefs even though they are completely wrong.”

• “My position here is not political — zero politics. My motivation was that the President of the United States asked me, a public health policy person who understands medical science, to help in the biggest healthcare crisis of the century. There would be something wrong with you if you would say no to that, no matter what your politics. When I did that though, I knew I would be vilified, because in the US there are a lot of people who think that this President is radioactive, so there is a massive destruction that ensues immediately when you associate with this President. It’s a very sad statement on America, on American culture, on the world — these people are blinded, even scientists, to the data because they despise the political side of this. And they have a massive ego, and can’t admit they’re wrong. Ok I’m a contrarian, I’m used to being a contrarian, I’m proud to be an outlier when the inliers are wrong. I’ve gone through various levels of being angry. I’m not angry, but I’m sort of disgusted and dismayed at the state of things. It’s just sad to me. I’m cynical about the state we’re in right now and the future. I’m disturbed. I have children of my own who are in their twenties, and I wonder what the future is if we have lost truth in the media, to a great extent, and we are now starting to lose truth in science.
I am angry at the people who were wrong, and who insist on prolonging these policies that are killing people, particularly people who are not in their socioeconomic class. It’s no problem for a person who has a high level job in government, or an academic job, to sit there and pontificate when the average guy is being destroyed. That I am angry about, and I think history will record these people very harshly — it is an epic failure of massive proportion that they have abandoned regular people here with their own hubris and political agenda. In that sense – yeah I’m angry.”

• “Things like universal mask wearing — honestly that is contrary to the science as well as common sense, to think that you need to wear a mask when you’re in the middle of the desert, when you’re in the car on your own, when you’re bicycling through St James’s Park. This kind of stuff is nonsense. There is no science to support universal masking. You can look at LA County, Miami-Dade county, many states in the US, the Philippines, Spain, France, the UK, all over the world: mandating masks does not stop for the population does not stop cases. That is just super naïve, wrong, and that’s just garbage science really. The WHO does not recommend widespread mandatory masks, the NIH does not recommend that, the CDC data itself shows that that doesn’t work. That’s bordering on wearing a copper bracelet as far as I am concerned. I do think masks have a role. In medicine, we wear masks for surgical procedures. 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 or droplets from getting in there and infecting something. That’s very different from breathing. If you’re socially distanced, there’s no reason to wear a mask.”

• “I have a lot of support inside Hoover Institution, a lot of support in faculty. I certainly have lost some friends, there’s no question about that — would I do it again? Absolutely. It’s the most important thing I’ve ever done. I’m disgusted by politics – completely disgusted — and it’s a sad statement. People were exposed when someone came into power who they didn’t agree with it they were exposed for who they were. That’s a gross embarrassment, and its sad. There’s a tremendous amount of emotion rather than rational thought.”



Stanford University profile:

“Scott W. Atlas, MD, is the Robert Wesson Senior Fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution. He investigates the impact of government and the private sector on access, quality, and pricing in health care, global trends in health care innovation, and key economic issues related to the future of technology-based medical advances. Dr. Atlas’s most recent books include “Restoring Quality Health Care: A Six Point Plan for Comprehensive Reform at Lower Cost” (Hoover Institution Press, 2020, 2nd ed.) and “In Excellent Health: Setting the Record Straight on America’s Health Care System”. Dr. Atlas has been interviewed by or has published his work in a variety of media, including BBC Radio, the PBS NewsHour, the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Forbes Magazine, CNN, USA Today, Fox News, London’s Financial Times, Brazil’s Correio Braziliense, Italy’s Corriere della Sera, Argentina’s Diario La Nacion, and India’s The Hindu. Dr. Atlas is a frequent policy advisor to policymakers and government officials in the United States and in other countries. He has served as Senior Advisor for Health Care to a number of candidates for President of the United States, as well as having counselled members of the US Congress on health care, testified before Congress, and briefed directors of key agencies in the federal government. In the private sector, Atlas is a frequent advisor to start-up entrepreneurs and companies in life sciences and medical technology. Dr. Atlas is also the editor of the leading textbook in the field, Magnetic Resonance Imaging of the Brain and Spine, now in its fifth edition and previously translated from English into Mandarin, Spanish, and Portuguese. He has been an editor, an associate editor, and a member of the editorial and scientific boards of many journals as well as national and international scientific societies during the past three decades and has written more than 120 scientific publications in leading journals. As professor and Chief of Neuroradiology at Stanford University Medical Center from 1998 until 2012 and during his prior academic positions, Dr. Atlas trained more than one hundred neuroradiology fellows, many of whom are now leaders in the field throughout the world.”


• swatlas@stanford.edu
• Hoover Institution, HHMB 350, 434 Galvez Mall, Stanford University, Stanford, California 94305-6010

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