Members of the White House coronavirus task force are praising a move by Twitter removing a misleading tweet from top Trump adviser Dr. Scott Atlas that told Americans masks don’t work.
The tweet’s removal was a “relief” among some task force members, Dr. Deborah Birx told friends over the weekend, according to a source with knowledge of the conversation.
Atlas, a neuroradiologist and President Donald Trump’s hand-picked coronavirus adviser, had undermined the importance of face masks with misinformation in a Saturday Twitter post.
“Masks work? NO,” Atlas wrote, followed by a series of misrepresentations about the science behind the effectiveness of masks in combating the pandemic.
The tweet and its subsequent removal comes as coronavirus cases spike across the US and other members of the task force have taken to the airwaves to urge Americans to heed basic mitigation strategies, including mask usage and social distancing.
According to the Washington Post, Birx recently confronted Vice President Mike Pence’s office about Atlas, saying during a meeting “that she does not trust Atlas, does not believe he is giving Trump sound advice and wants him removed from the task force.”
Sources have also told CNN that Birx has told friends fighting the virus is “hard enough (without Atlas).”
She suggested the task force is frustrated by Atlas’ ability to find obscure information, label it as data and “present (it) to the President as scientific evidence,” an almost insurmountable challenge.
“If he likes the sound of it, he believes it,” Birx has said of Trump.
Representatives from the coronavirus task force did not respond to CNN’s request for comment.
Atlas has emerged as a key influence on the President in recent weeks as the task force and its key public health experts have been swept aside by politics and competing interests.
Task force officials haven’t briefed reporters at the White House in weeks, though the group continues to consistently brief the nation’s governors and provide states with weekly reports and recommendations. Those recommendations, however, go largely unheeded by the President as he travels across the country holding packed rallies ahead of the election.
According to Twitter, the policy Atlas violated with his weekend tweet prohibits sharing false or misleading content related to Covid-19 that could lead to harm.
The message pushed by the controversial neuroradiologist also goes against guidance from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which recommends people wear masks in public settings and when around people who don’t live in their household, especially when other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.
Atlas has also advocated internally for a herd immunity strategy to combat the pandemic, the idea of allowing the virus to circulate freely. Though he has explicitly denied that he is pushing a herd immunity strategy, an administration official has previously told CNN all of the policies Atlas has pushed for are in the vein of a herd immunity strategy.
Atlas has rejected the need for widespread community testing, arguing that the administration should focus almost exclusively on protecting and testing elderly populations while pushing for the rest of the economy to return to normal, this official said.
“Everything he says and does points toward herd immunity,” the senior administration official said.
Many public health experts, including World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, have warned that the “herd immunity” approach is dangerous.
“Allowing a dangerous virus that we don’t fully understand to run free is simply unethical,” Tedros said during a briefing on Monday. “It’s not an option.”
CNN’s Kate Bennett, Jeremy Diamond, Paul LeBlanc, Jacqueline Howard and Maegan Vazquez contributed to this report.