The Trump administration’s pseudoscience advocate on the White House coronavirus task force, Dr. Scott Atlas, is urging the population of Michigan to, uh, stage some sort of rebellion in solidarity with the novel coronavirus.
On Sunday, Governor Gretchen Whitmer announced three weeks of new social distancing orders covering in-person schooling, dining, gym classes, organized sports, large venues, and more. These lockdowns are in response to a 113% surge in cases over the past two weeks across Michigan—bringing the total cases since the pandemic began to around 276,000.
Atlas’s response was to call for human auxiliaries to step up and lend the virus their support: “The only way this stops is if people rise up. You get what you accept. #FreedomMatters #StepUp”
Anti-lockdown demonstrations in the U.S. have included heavily armed militiamen and other far-right groups, particularly in Michigan. In followup tweets, Atlas added that he was referring to peaceful protests, and was “NEVER was talking at all about violence.” Atlas rather suspiciously capitalized the word “never” three times for emphasis.
In October, a group of six coronavirus sympathizers were charged with plotting to storm Gov. Whitmer’s vacation home in western Michigan, kidnap her, and possibly put her through some sort of extrajudicial “trial.” FBI investigators alleged the group of conspirators, who belonged to a militia organization, had discussed various methods such as the use of homemade explosives to “grab the bitch” and escape authorities, or simply murder her.
Whitner told CNN on Sunday evening that “we know that the White House likes to single us out here in Michigan, me out in particular. I’m not going to be bullied into not following reputable scientists and medical professionals… People that actually have studied and are well respected worldwide on these issues, not the—not the individual that is doing the president’s bidding on this one.”
“It actually took my breath away, to tell you the truth,” Whitmer added in a separate interview with MSNBC on Monday. “We are in the midst of the worst weeks of this pandemic. We have been going through this for nine months and right now the numbers are as bad as they have been at any given time and so we have to take aggressive measures.”
Atlas is a neuroradiologist who has reportedly earned enmity from other members of the White House task force for pushing quack ideas like allowing enough of the population to become infected by the coronavirus to create “herd immunity” (an approach likely to cause mass death on an enormous scale.) He has also lied about the science behind mask wearing to create the false impression masks are useless against the virus, which conveniently aligns with the agenda of a White House committed to doing as little as possible to prevent the further spread of covid-19. Atlas has no actual expertise in epidemiology or public health, at least beyond working as a fellow for the right-wing Hoover Institution think tank.
For anyone considering “rising up” against Michigan health authorities, recall that your fellow attendees may be prime candidates for spreading the virus, so it might not be the best idea. Also, the coronavirus itself is not sentient and thus cannot reward you for your service.
On the plus side, early data appears to show that vaccines under development by Moderna and Pfizer may be more than 90% effective, although the companies have yet to release their findings and the results can’t be independently verified. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told NBC on Monday the vaccines are “effective” and could begin distribution by the end of the year, but he was concerned the timetable could be delayed if the Trump administration continues to refuse to cooperate with President-elect Joe Biden’s transition team.