The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has grown increasingly concerned that President Donald Trump, pushed by a new member of his coronavirus task force, is sharing incorrect information about the pandemic with the public.
Dr. Robert Redfield, who leads the CDC, suggested in a conversation with a colleague Friday that Dr. Scott Atlas is arming Trump with misleading data about a range of issues, including questioning the efficacy of masks, whether young people are susceptible to the virus and the potential benefits of herd immunity.
"Everything he says is false," Redfield said during a phone call made in public on a commercial airline and overheard by NBC News.
Redfield acknowledged after the flight from Atlanta to Washington that he was speaking about Atlas, a neuroradiologist with no background in infectious diseases or public health. Atlas was brought on to the White House task force in August.
Redfield testified before Congress this month that he suspects that a face covering could protect him from Covid-19 better than any future vaccine. Most public health officials share the view that masks are essential to stopping the spread of the virus. Still, Trump has repeatedly cast doubt on how useful wearing them may be.
"If every one of us did it, this pandemic would be over in eight to 12 weeks," Redfield said before offering a stark warning that contradicted the president's assertion that the country is "rounding the corner" on the pandemic.
"We're nowhere near the end," Redfield said.
In an email, a CDC spokesman said: "NBC News is reporting one side of a private phone conversation by CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield that was overheard on a plane from Atlanta Hartsfield airport. Dr. Redfield was having a private discussion regarding a number of points he has made publicly about Covid-19."
Before he joined the task force, Atlas was a frequent guest on Fox News, where he pushed to reopen the country and espoused views that more closely align with Trump's opinions during the health crisis. Since his addition to the task force, Atlas has become the medical expert who spends the most time with the president, and his profile has been elevated in recent weeks by his appearing in the White House briefing room when Trump speaks with reporters.
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