ORLANDO, Fla. – Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis made his rounds Monday updating the public on the state’s response to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and he had assistance from the White House in the form of the Trump Administration’s newest coronavirus advisor, Dr. Scott Atlas.
During three stops, across the state from Tallahassee, The Villages and Tampa, Atlas joined DeSantis and Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran touting schools reopening and saying the risks to a child’s education is much greater than the disease.
Atlas, who is not an infectious disease expert, said “children have no serious risk from this disease, it’s very safe for them they can handle this.”
While 1.1 million K-12 students, about 40% of Florida’s student population, returned for on-campus learning this August, a majority are learning through virtual or hybrid options. Tens of thousands of K-12 students have also been unaccounted for, according to school districts.
Atlas said that distance learning alone “a failure” and disproportionately affects low-income families, saying “this is a huge problem for those families.”
“When you close schools to in-person learning, it is enormously destructive, not just the fact that length that reading skills go down 30% math skills go down 50%,” Atlas said.
In mid-August, President Donald Trump announced Atlas had joined the White House as a pandemic adviser. Atlas, the former chief of neuroradiology at Stanford University Medical Center and a fellow at Stanford’s conservative Hoover Institution, has no expertise in public health or infectious diseases.
According to Atlas’ Stanford University bio, “he investigates the impact of government and the private sector on access, quality, and pricing in health care, global trends in health care innovation, and key economic issues related to the future of technology-based medical advances.”
Atlas is a frequent guest on Fox News Channel and has been vocal against lockdown measures put in place to prevent the spread of the virus.
Atlas’ hiring comes amid ongoing tensions between the president and Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious diseases expert, and Deborah Birx, the task force’s coordinator. While Birx remains closely involved in the administration’s pandemic response, both she and Fauci have publicly contradicted the rosy picture the president has painted of a virus that has now killed more than 183,300 people in the United States and infected millions nationwide.
DeSantis declared Monday that there is no going back for Florida now that most businesses and institutions have been able to reopen.
“We will never do any of these lockdowns again,” he told reporters in The Villages.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.