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CDC Chief Makes Call on Plane, Reporter Overhears It

'Everything he says is false,' Robert Redfield said of Trump's new COVID-19 adviser, Dr. Scott Atlas
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 28, 2020 2:07 PM CDT

(Newser) – The director of the CDC flew from Atlanta to DC Friday, and a phone call he made while on the plane is now making headlines. Turns out an NBC News reporter was on the same flight as Robert Redfield and overheard him apparently blasting President Trump's newest coronavirus task force member, Dr. Scott Atlas, a neuroradiologist with no public health or infectious diseases experience. "Everything he says is false," Redfield said to a colleague, underscoring his concerns on Atlas' views on mask efficacy, herd immunity, and how COVID-19 affects young people. After the flight, Redfield confirmed he'd been talking about Atlas in the overheard call. The CDC also issued a statement, noting that "NBC News is reporting one side of a private phone conversation. ... Dr. Redfield was having a private discussion regarding a number of points he has made publicly about COVID-19."

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A White House spokesperson tells the news outlet that Trump confers with a variety of health officials "who sometimes disagree with one another," then makes his decisions on how to approach the pandemic from there. Atlas, meanwhile, also had a response to Redfield's comments. "Everything I have said is directly from the data and the science," he says in a statement. "It echoes what is said by many of the top medical scientists in the world, including those at Stanford, Harvard, and Oxford." The Week notes that Redfield isn't the first health official to voice concern about Atlas, citing a CNN report from last week that said coronavirus task force coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx is "distressed" with how the task force is leaning of late and thinks Atlas is a bad influence on Trump's thinking about the coronavirus. (Read more Robert Redfield stories.)

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