A White House official confirmed that the Stanford University neuroradiologist, who had no formal experience in public health or infectious diseases, resigned at the end of his temporary government assignment. Atlas confirmed the news in a Monday evening tweet.
Atlas joined the White House this summer, where he clashed with top government scientists, including Dr. Anthony Fauci and Dr. Deborah Birx, as he resisted stronger efforts to contain the COVID-19 pandemic that has killed more than 267,000 Americans.
Atlas has broken with government experts and the overwhelming consensus of the scientific community to criticize efforts to encourage face coverings to slow the spread of the virus. Twitter removed a post from Atlas in October that claimed masks don’t work.
Just weeks ago on Twitter he responded to Michigan’s latest virus restrictions by encouraging people to “rise up” against the state’s policies.
He has also advocated for allowing the virus to run amok to create “herd immunity,” the idea that community-wide resistance can be built by infecting a large portion of the population. The World Health Organization has discredited the approach as dangerous.
White House officials say Atlas no longer supports it.
Atlas’ views also prompted Stanford to issue a statement distancing itself from the faculty member, saying Atlas “has expressed views that are inconsistent with the university’s approach in response to the pandemic.”
“We support using masks, social distancing, and conducting surveillance and diagnostic testing,” the university said Nov. 16. “We also believe in the importance of strictly following the guidance of local and state health authorities.”
Atlas defended his role in his resignation letter, saying, “I cannot think of a time where safeguarding science and the scientific debate is more urgent.”
Atlas was hired as a “special government employee,” which limited his service to government to 130 days in a calendar year — a deadline he reached this week.
—With files from Global News
© 2020 The Canadian Press