We can now date cable news screenshots by how many people have died since then.

Dr. Scott Atlas, the radiologist with no experience in infectious disease, resigned yesterday from his position as Donald Trump's favorite coronavirus whisperer. Possibly he figured that with the COVID-19 pandemic roaring along out of control across the US, there was little more he could do to help it along. In his resignation letter, which he posted to Twitter last night, Atlas wrote that he had "always relied on the latest science and evidence, without any political consideration or influence."

It's impressive that the man managed to lie even in his resignation letter. His October tweet saying "Masks work? No" — Twitter removed it — certainly wasn't supported by science or evidence, and we have a sneaking feeling his recent call for people to "rise up" against Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's mask mandate just might have involved some political considerations.

But Atlas's real legacy will live on, as Donald Trump's refusal to support basic public health measures will go down in history as one of the most shameful failures of leadership in US history. It's certainly an impressive achievement for Atlas.

Atlas was hired by Trump in August after the Great Man decided he really liked all the stuff Atlas was saying on Fox News about how he thought the best way to deal with the pandemic would be to "protect" old people and other vulnerable folks while letting the disease spread, since most people don't hardly die at all, and then the survivors would be immune to the disease. All we had to do was to get enough Americans infected, and we'd have "herd immunity," which is normally achieved by getting a large majority of the population vaccinated. The only downside to Atlas's suggestion is that, to get even half of Americans infected and then maybe-immune, you'd end up with a couple million people dead, not to mention millions more with permanent health effects after surviving the disease.

Despite nearly universal opposition from real epidemiologists and public health officials, Trump was pretty big on the idea, since it meant that "doing almost nothing" could be called a policy. Atlas soon became the only person Trump wanted to hear from about the pandemic, and while the White House denied it was pursuing a herd immunity "strategy," the administration's actual policies, such as they were, definitely looked more and more like what Atlas had advocated on Fox: Don't do much to limit the spread of the virus, and talk about how eventually a vaccine will come along.

At an August presser, Trump himself praised Atlas's innovative thinking, saying, "He has many great ideas. [...] And he thinks what we've done is really good, and now we'll take it to a new level." And did he ever!

Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar hosted some herd immunity advocates, Donald Trump held lots of superspreader rallies, and even after Trump himself was diagnosed with COVID-19, the official view on the pandemic was that we needed everyone to get back to work and stop worrying so much, because if you get the disease, you'll be fine, as long as you have the healthcare available to a US president. Eventually, in late October, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows said on national TV that the administration was "not going to control the pandemic," and as the election approached, Trump was officially finished thinking about it, too.

So now, Atlas is leaving, a little earlier than the end of his 130-day appointment as a special adviser to Trump. Politico offers this damning assessment from an unnamed insider who is nonetheless still working in the Trump death cult:

There's "really nothing left for him to advise on," added a senior administration official who's been in meetings with Atlas. The arrival of Covid-19 vaccines means that herd immunity is likely coming the traditional way, the official said — through widespread vaccination, rather than the approach advocated by Atlas.

Meanwhile, Trump's interest in "an alternate reality" on the coronavirus outbreak has waned in recent days, the senior official said, with the president increasingly focused on contesting the election results. "Both sides seemed to reach the end of their utility to each other," the senior official said.

The winning just keeps going, doesn't it? It's not clear what Atlas will do next; he's still connected with the rightwing Hoover Institution at Stanford University, but Stanford has made it clear Atlas's fringe views "are inconsistent with the university's approach" to the pandemic, and he may be far happier in some other part of the wingnut media ecosystem. Does One America News Network have a show where he can give terribly wrong health advice?

Atlas's departure isn't being marked with any special ceremony. Maybe the morgue in El Paso can hang a "Mission Accomplished" banner on one of the refrigerated trailers it's had to store excess corpses in.

[Politico / CNN / NYT]

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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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