CNN covers how Scott Atlas, Trump's Fox News doctor, drove down Florida's COVID-19 testing

John Avlon reports on how Atlas and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis helped turn “Trump's anti-testing pronouncements ... into public policy”

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Citation From the October 29, 2020 edition of CNN's New Day



PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: When you do testing to that extent, you're going to find more people, you're going to find more cases. So I said to my people, slow the testing down, please. 


AVLON: Now Trump's aides said he was joking after that June rally in Tulsa, but he wasn't joking. He was doctor shopping. And he found what he was looking for in Dr. Scott Atlas -- a neuroradiologist, not an infectious disease expert -- who he'd seen on Fox News. Atlas joined the White House on August 10th and soon became President Trump's primary pandemic adviser, pushing aside more experienced and trusted advisers like Dr. Fauci and Dr. Birx. Atlas strongly supported a decision in August to revise CDC guidelines to de-emphasize the need to test people without symptoms, according to two sources familiar with the process. Now, this was later reversed when CDC scientists objected, but Atlas shared this view with state officials, including Republican Florida Gov. Ron Desantis and others. That's according to transcripts of public events and accounts from private meetings in that state on August 31. 


AVLON: And that push to de-emphasize tests coincided with a dramatic drop in testing across Florida, even as the country was careening towards a fall coronavirus surge. Now, CNN analysis of the Florida state official numbers aggregated by the COVID Tracking Project shows that testing dropped off at the end of July and early August, from a peak seven-day average of over 90,000 tests per day on July 18 -- six weeks later, the seven-day average dropped by nearly half and hovered there between there and 60,000 during the fall.

But if Atlas' and DeSantis' advocacy in Florida was in fact responsible for the state's testing decrease, well that would be very much in keeping with the wishes of President Trump. And some state and local officials believe the pair was influential in taking Trump's anti-testing pronouncements and helping to turn them into public policy. Though both Atlas and DeSantis declined to discuss their views with CNN for this story, they have articulated them in public. And a White House spokesman claimed Atlas had never advocated for reducing testing, despite the doctor's public pronouncements to the contrary.