Robert Redfield, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, testifies during a Senate Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee Hearing to examine COVID-19, focusing on an update on the federal response at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, on September 23, 2020.
Alex Edelman/Pool via Reuters
Robert Redfield, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, criticized President Donald Trump’s new COVID-19 task force adviser, saying he’s concerned the new member is sharing misinformation with the public.
In a conversation overheard on a public commercial airline flight by NBC News reporter Monica Alba, Redfield was heard discussing Dr. Scott Atlas, a neuroradiologist with no background in infectious diseases who was brought on to Trump’s task force in August.
“Everything he says is false,” Alba heard Redfield say.
Redfield confirmed to NBC News that he was talking about Atlas during the conversation. The CDC told NBC News that the reporter only heard “one side” of the conversation, but did not dispute what he was heard saying.
Since joining the task force in August, Atlas has called the use of face coverings into question, suggested he would support herd immunity, and shared misleading information about young people and COVID-19.
In a statement to NBC News about Redfield’s comment, Atlas said: “Everything I have said is directly from the data and the science. It echoes what is said by many of the top medical scientists in the world, including those at Stanford, Harvard, and Oxford.”
Seventy-eight of Atlas’s former colleagues at Stanford Medical School issued an open letter on September 9 in which they warned about the dangers of his claims.
“Many of his opinions and statements run counter to established science, and, by doing so, undermine public-health authorities and the credible science that guides effective public health policy,” the letter said.
More than 200,000 people have died from COVID-19 since the pandemic began.
The CDC has urged people to social distance and wear masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19, and public health experts have also warned against the concept of herd immunity.
Redfield testified before Congress earlier this month, during which he said most Americans wouldn’t have access to a COVID-19 vaccine until the summer or fall 2021.
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