Atlas Shrugged

Dr. Scott Atlas probably doesn’t want you to know who he is.

He’s the physician (neuroradiologist, to be precise) who’s been doing a lot of the behind-the-scenes, um, shaping of CDC and administration guidelines and policies related to the coronavirus.

According to a recent Financial Times profile,

Unlike some others on the [White House pandemic] task force, Dr Atlas does not have a background in epidemiology, but he is known in rightwing circles as a former healthcare adviser to both Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney during their failed presidential bids. [President] Trump appointed him to the task force after a string of appearances on Fox News during which he [Atlas] argued combatively against lockdowns.

The main thrust of the article is that Dr. Atlas has become quite the vocal advocate for the idea of herd immunity — “aggressively protecting” the most vulnerable while letting the virus burn its way through the rest of the population.

But as the epidemiologists of Kings College London showed early on, even a smallish percentage of deaths in a large population works out to be an awful lot of dead people. If you assume 1 percent mortality on 100 percent infection, you’d see 3.3 million deaths in the United States alone; even if you drop those numbers to achieve “only,” say, 2 million deaths, that’s still outrageous — ten times as many as we’ve seen yet. And, as KCL recently showed, immunity isn’t forever, so herd immunity is effectively never.

So we need to be clear about a few things: first, “herd immunity” is a euphemism for hundreds of thousands of deaths. Second, that’s the official line of the administration — both from the White House and from the task force.

Third, even if such a shrugging response to mass death might be expected from someone whose qualifications for his current role prominently feature advising Rudy Giuliani and a string of Fox News appearances, it’s completely and sickly incompatible with the battle royale unfolding before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The thing about Amy Coney Barrett is that she’s pro-life. And the thing about Scott Atlas is he’s pushing policies that are undeniably pro-death.

There are miracles, and there is medicine. (For that matter, there is jurisprudence, and there is religion.) But the haphazard conflation cynically peddled by the current administration is, frankly, sickening.