White House photo

Dr. Robert Redfield, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is not happy that Donald Trump has been getting most of his advice on coronavirus policy from Dr. Scott Atlas, Trump's new best pal who thinks it would be cool if we just lock up all the old people and let COVID-19 run rampant until everyone else gets it. An NBC News reporter overheard Redfield's half of a phone conversation with a colleague on an airliner Friday, during which the CDC director fretted about all the bad information Atlas is giving Trump.

It would of course would be pure unfounded speculation to suggest maybe Redfield raised his voice so he could be clearly heard saying, "Everything he says is false." We certainly would never say that, and neither would we suggest that Redfield might have spoken loudly, publicly, and passive aggressively after Rachel Maddow made a really good case that Redfield should resign for rolling over on science in response to White House pressure. That's crazy talk.

But the NBC reporter heard plenty, as Redfield shared his concerns that Atlas

is arming Trump with misleading data about a range of issues, including questioning the efficacy of masks, whether young people are susceptible to the virus and the potential benefits of herd immunity.

The piece notes Redfield "acknowledged after the flight from Atlanta to Washington that he was speaking about Atlas."

Good to know that the scientists are in charge of all this.


Atlas joined the White House coronavirus task force in August after Trump saw him downplaying the dangers of the virus and advocating "herd immunity" on Fox News, and since then, Atlas has become Trump's go-to guy on coronavirus information, although Atlas is a neuroradiologist who is untainted by any expertise in epidemiology or infectious disease. But that's nothing compared to being on Fox News.

NBC News notes that while Redfield, Anthony Fauci, and Deborah Birx regularly appeared during Trump's coronavirus pressers in the spring, Atlas has generally been the only expert accompanying Trump at his recent "press briefings." Hooray, we are back to the good old days of Cold War Sovietology, when experts guessed at internal Kremlin power struggles by analyzing who stood closest to Brezhnev during the May Day military parade.

Redfield recently upset Trump, and apparently Atlas too, by saying science facts to Congress, like testifying that if everyone would routinely wear masks in public, we could stop the increase of coronavirus cases in a couple months, like we're even going to do anything that sensible. He also indirectly refuted Trump's insistence that America is "rounding the corner" on the still-growing pandemic. Instead, Redfield said, "We're nowhere near the end."

Trump also got very pissy about all that, particularly that Redfield said that even if a vaccine were fully tested by the end of the year, it would realistically be sometime in the late second or early third quarter of 2021. Don't be silly, Trump insisted, Redfield was "confused" about that, and also he must have "misunderstood the questions" about the benefits of masks. You know how Robert Redfield gets things all scrambled and replies to questions with crazy stream-of-Adderall nonsense that's completely off topic like that.

Atlas has offered his own catty nitpicks about Redfield, too:

[When] Redfield testified last week that 90 percent of Americans remain susceptible to the coronavirus, Atlas directly contradicted him and claimed that he had "misstated" that fact under oath. Atlas argued that Redfield was using "old" data, even though Redfield cited information from July and August when answering lawmakers' questions on Capitol Hill.

The CDC has yet to release that information publicly, but it says it will do so soon.

But the CDC spokesperson NBC News asked to comment for the story did say the virus "is likely going to continue to infect people for the foreseeable future until a vaccine is administered widely," and wouldn't you know it, it seems the spox is also very confused, because they said the timeline for a vaccine is likely to start with "the first doses being available in 2020 and more widely available in the second and third quarter of 2021." But maybe everyone will get those first doses.

In an email to NBC News about Redfield's conversation on the plane, the CDC spox grumped

NBC News is reporting one side of a private phone conversation by CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield that was overheard on a plane from Atlanta Hartsfield airport. Dr. Redfield was having a private discussion regarding a number of points he has made publicly about Covid-19.

Well that's one heck of a denial, with no denials in it at all. Atlas's reply was also very specific, saying that everything he's ever said about COVID-19 "is directly from the data and the science" and that it "echoes what is said by many of the top medical scientists in the world, including those at Stanford, Harvard, and Oxford." Translation: I am not a crank, said the radiologist with no expertise in epidemiology or infectious disease.

Also too, an unidentified "White House official" explained that Donald Trump loves a frank exchange of views among his people, and then, regardless of who emerges still breathing from Thunderdome, he goes with whatever herd mentality he thinks fits his agenda. Or as the official put it, The Great Man

"consults with many experts both inside and outside of the federal government, who sometimes disagree with one another."

"He then makes policy decisions based on all of the information to save lives and safely reopen the country," the official said, adding that "everyone, including the president, recommends wearing a mask when you cannot social distance."

And in an indication of how much more open he is to scientific advice, Trump will now only mock about 2/3 of people wearing masks, after first finding out if they're Democrats, the end.

[NBC News]

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Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.

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