White House adviser Scott Atlas on Wednesday contradicted Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Robert Redfield on how much of the U.S. population remains vulnerable to the coronavirus.
The remarks at a White House press briefing comes a week after President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden on Trump’s refusal to commit to peaceful transfer of power: ‘What country are we in?’ Romney: ‘Unthinkable and unacceptable’ to not commit to peaceful transition of power Two Louisville police officers shot amid Breonna Taylor grand jury protests MORE used the same forum to undermine testimony from Redfield on how quickly a COVID-19 vaccine could be available.
“I think that Dr. Redfield misstated something … the data on the susceptible, what he was talking about what his surveillance data that showed roughly 9 percent of the country has antibodies, but when you look at the CDC data state by state much of that data is old,” Atlas said at the briefing.
“The immunity to the infection is not solely determined by the percentage of people who have antibodies … the reality is that according to the papers from Sweden, Singapore and elsewhere there is cross-immunity highly likely from other infections and there is also T-cell immunity, and the combination of those makes the antibodies a small fraction of the people that have immunity.”
In a heated exchange with NBC’s Peter Alexander, who noted the contradiction, Atlas responded, “You’re supposed to believe the science and I’m telling you the science.”
Atlas also denied reports that White House coronavirus task force coordinator Deborah BirxDeborah BirxAtlas contradicts Redfield on population susceptibility to coronavirus Controversial CDC guidelines were written by HHS officials, not scientists: report Trump coronavirus adviser threatens to sue Stanford researchers MORE is considering quitting, calling the reports “completely false” and noting she has denied it as well.
Atlas’s comments directly contradicted Redfield’s sworn testimony earlier Wednesday, when he told a Senate panel that preliminary data “show that a majority of our nation, more than 90 percent of the population, remain susceptible.”
The comments came exactly a week after Trump contradicted earlier testimony by Redfield on distribution of vaccines and the effectiveness of masks against the virus.
Perceived political interference into the CDC’s mission has been devastating to morale at the agency, current and former officials told The Hill this week.
“The feeling right now is that public health is not being allowed to lead and to demonstrate the path forward to reduce transmission and increase economic activity,” former CDC director Rich Besser said.