For the past two years, the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis has been investigating the federal government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic to ensure the American people receive a full accounting of what went wrong and to determine what corrective steps are necessary to ensure our nation is better prepared for any future public health crisis.1 To those ends, the Select Subcommittee has conducted an exhaustive investigation into the extent to which senior Trump Administration officials undermined the federal public health response in an attempt to advance former President Donald Trump’s perceived political interests.This report is the first installment of the Select Subcommittee’s findings showing that the Trump Administration’s political interference was rampant and degraded every major facet of the nation’s public health response during the first year of the pandemic. It is based on a series of transcribed interviews with senior officials involved in the federal government’s pandemic response, including White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Dr. Robert Redfield, Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn, Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Assistant Secretary for Health Admiral Brett Giroir, and Special Advisor to the President Dr. Scott Atlas, as well as a review of thousands of pages of internal correspondence and other documents obtained by the Select Subcommittee.This installment chronicles the Trump Administration’s embrace of a dangerous and discredited herd immunity via mass infection strategy as they failed to curb the spread of the coronavirus. New evidence obtained by the Select Subcommittee and released for the first time today reveals that support for this herd immunity strategy in the Trump White House was deeper and more wide-reaching than previously known. The embrace of this strategy enabled Trump Administration officials to convince themselves that they were right to do nothing to limit the spread of the virus in the second half of 2020 and likely resulted in many deaths that would have been prevented by an effective national mitigation strategy.
As the country was entering into the deadly fall and winter 2020 surge, Dr. Atlas continued to advocate against proven mitigation measures under the misguided premise that most regions of the country had already achieved sufficient disease-acquired herd immunity to prevent future surges.122 Despite an attempted intervention by multiple doctors on the White House Coronavirus Task Force with Vice President Pence’s office in November or December 2020 to warn about the deadly consequences if the Trump Administration did not take meaningful action to mitigate the virus’s spread, it appears that White House officials—after months of absorbing the “Atlas Dogma”—were largely unresponsive to these concerns. During the period from November 2020 through February 2021—as the deadly fall and winter surge swept across the country while the Trump Administration did little to curb its impact—the United States saw the most coronavirus deaths recorded in any four-month period throughout the entirety of the pandemic.
The Trump Administration’s flagrant disregard for proven mitigation measures in those months resulted in a federal response that differed little from the implementation of a deliberate herd immunity strategy. Administration officials used the “Atlas Dogma” to justify their downplaying of the virus before the November presidential election and their continued deprioritization of the crisis as they worked to overturn the election results. The Administration’s embrace of this ill-advised approach not only impaired the nation’s ability to respond effectively to the pandemic at a critical juncture before the deployment of vaccines and widespread availability of effective treatments—it also helped to lay the foundation for a wide swath of the public to persistently reject other vital tools to combat the virus, including coronavirus vaccines.
Atlas predicted that COVID would take 10,000 lives. He was off by a factor of 100. The actual death toll has dropped one million and counting.