Dr. Scott Atlas at the White House in October 2020. Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty Images
White House coronavirus advisor Dr. Scott Atlas was heavily criticized on Sunday when he tweeted that the people of Michigan should “rise up” against Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s new COVID-19 restrictions.
Whitmer announced on Sunday that the state would be instituting new measures to curb the spread of the coronavirus in the state, including temporarily stopping in-person college and high school classes, indoor dining at restaurants, and in-home gatherings of more than 10 people from more than two households.
The new restrictions start Wednesday, and will last for three weeks.
The US is currently in the middle of a third wave of the virus, and surpassed 11 million cases on Sunday.
As of Saturday, Michigan had recorded more than 275,000 cases and 8,376 deaths, according to the most recently available data from the state. In a Sunday press conference, Whitmer described the current situation as “dire” and “the worst moment of this pandemic to date.”
“We are at the precipice and we need to take some action,” she said.
Following Whitmer’s announcement, Atlas took to Twitter to express his opposition to her plan, writing that “the only way this stops is if people rise up. You get what you accept. #FreedomMatters #StepUp.”
Atlas has been a controversial member of Trump’s coronavirus task force since joining the team in August.
Atlas’ inclusion on the task force was criticized since he is not an infectious-disease expert, and has preached controversial opinions on the virus. They include his disbelief in the efficacy of face masks and his apparent push for a “herd immunity” coronavirus policy, which could result in the deaths of more than a million Americans, according to one estimate by MedPage Today. Atlas has denied that he is pushing this policy, but The Washington Post reported that he has done so behind closed doors.
As of Monday morning, 246,217 Americans have died of the coronavirus, according to figures from Johns Hopkins University.
People on Twitter quickly condemned Atlas’ comments, with some pointing out how inappropriate they were in light of Whitmer’s having recently been the target of a foiled kidnapping plot by a far-right group.
Three hours after his initial tweet, Atlas clarified his comments, saying that he was not calling for violence.
“Hey. I NEVER was talking at all about violence. People vote, people peacefully protest. NEVER would I endorse or incite violence. NEVER!!” Atlas tweeted.
During an interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer Sunday night, Whitmer was asked about Atlas’ comments.
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer pictured on October 16, 2020. Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images
“Well, 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,” she said.
“I listen to people that actually have studied and are well-respected worldwide on these issues, not the individual who is doing the president’s bidding on this one.”
Atlas did not immediately respond to Business Insider’s request for comment.
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