Dr. Scott Atlas joining the Coronavirus Task Force is a wonderful addition. He will provide some common sense, using honest risk-evaluation regarding COVID-19, which has been missing. Since the beginning of the pandemic, his opinions and thoughts about public policy have evolved as new information became available.
This balance will be a refreshing change, and I hope President Trump starts making him a primary medical spokesperson. Dr. Atlas has been a proponent of the smart reopening of businesses and schools. He does not hedge his recommendations using outliers to frighten people, as Dr. Fauci often does. Right now, Americans need some hope and clear evidence-based support. Dr. Atlas has provided this consistently.
Solid public policy rarely covers the exceptions, and when it does, it often results in the loss of individual freedom and liberty. If you need an example, you can look at the COVID-19 responses in California, Michigan, or New York. They seem to have adopted “no one can ever catch COVID-19 again” as the success criteria. Quite frankly, this is patently insane, but it is a convenient excuse for leaders to embrace their authoritarian tendencies.
Dr. Atlas could have an immediate impact on the American psyche if he addresses some information that has not been widely covered, perhaps because it provides hope. The blatant politicization of COVID-19 information is evident to many Americans, but they don’t often know where to turn. Dr. Atlas provided practical information about masks with a sense of humor last night on Tucker Carlson Tonight:
— Tom Elliott (@tomselliott) August 12, 2020
Phew! My strategy of wearing them mostly to make other people feel better in the supermarket or drug store seems rational. You won’t catch me wearing one inside my home, car, or outdoors. I feel validated.
Now, a few other things Dr. Atlas could comment on that would make people calm down.
Several studies have shown reactive T-cell immunity to COVID-19. It would be interesting to hear Dr. Atlas’ assessment of how this might explain the experiences in Sweden or states like Georgia and Florida that had short lockdowns followed by what looks like a predictable disease curve.
The facts seem to support that COVID-19 is not a novel virus. It is 79% similar to SARS and has proteins in common with the coronaviruses that cause the common cold. A healthy immune system that has been exposed to these less virulent coronaviruses seems to be able to neutralize COVID-19 when it detects it.
Even more interesting would be to understand how Dr. Atlas views the current situation in New York and New Jersey in light of these studies. Would this evidence support fewer restrictions for residents? Perhaps the charges against Ian Smith and Frank Trumbetti, owners of Atilis Gym in New Jersey, for the crime of opening their business, could be dropped. Maybe New York City residents could eat inside a restaurant without being told what they have to eat.
Next, it would be great for Dr. Atlas to explain the value of testing. The CDC does not recommend retesting of recovered patients because viral debris can be present for up to 90 days after they are symptom-free. This debris is not capable of replicating or infecting another person. I wonder what Dr. Atlas would have to say about retesting for work or school.
Additionally, if T-cell immunity exists, could this same viral debris exist as the result of a person’s immune response? If so, is there any value to testing people with no symptoms, except in high-risk populations like nursing homes? It would seem that it only serves to inflate the number of cases and cause people who will never be ill or able to transmit the virus to quarantine for two weeks.
Finally, Dr. Atlas may be able to cut through the noise on the hydroxychloroquine debate. Doctors and researchers have advocated for early and outpatient use of the drug in combination with zinc and azithromycin in doses already approved by the FDA. If Dr. Atlas could clarify the safety record of the medication at the currently recommended dosage and defend the doctor-patient relationship, that would be a massive step in the correct direction.
Dr. Harvey Risch, a respected epidemiologist at Yale, did a review of observational and peer-reviewed studies on outpatient use. He concluded that the medication should be made available for use on an outpatient basis based on the evidence. He wrote a very disturbing editorial in the Washington Examiner about what has happened since:
The pushback has been furious. Dr. Anthony Fauci has implied that I am incompetent, notwithstanding my hundreds of highly regarded, methodologically relevant publications in peer-reviewed scientific literature. A group of my Yale colleagues has publicly intimated that I am a zealot who is perpetrating a dangerous hoax and conspiracy theory. I have been attacked in news articles by journalists who, ignorant of the full picture, have spun hit pieces from cherry-picked sources.
These personal attacks are a dangerous distraction from the real issue of hydroxychloroquine’s effectiveness, which is solidly grounded in both substantial evidence and appropriate medical decision-making logic. Much of the evidence is presented in my articles.
A Yale researcher is being treated with the same contempt as the members of America’s Frontline Doctors. This type of professional smearing in a profession that is expected to have robust disagreements is unconscionable and, quite frankly, terrifying. It needs to be corrected immediately with evidence-based recommendations.
Dr. Atlas is a needed addition to the Coronavirus Task Force. His perspective can help reduce the type of panic that leads to people getting maced for not wearing a mask while eating a picnic lunch. It could also go a long way to restoring hope and confidence that America can protect the vulnerable and get back to normal life sooner, rather than later.