Twitter removes post from Trump coronavirus advisor Scott Atlas claiming masks don’t work

Twitter has removed a tweet from U.S. President Donald Trump’s novel coronavirus advisor, Scott Atlas, suggesting wearing masks does not help stem the spread of the virus.

In a tweet Saturday morning, Atlas shared an article suggesting face coverings do not help limit the spread of COVID-19.

“Masks Work? NO,” he wrote.

One physician, Dr. Michael Mina, an assistant professor of epidemiology at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, was among those who called on the social media platform to remove the post.

“This is dangerous misinformation from a primary advisor to the president on the COVID response. This needs to be taken down immediately,” he wrote, “It is simply false.”

In an email to Global News, a spokesperson for Twitter said the tweet was taken down for “violating our Covid Misinformation Policy.”

It was removed Sunday morning, the platform confirmed.

Atlas, a neuroradiologist with no background in infectious diseases, has faced scrutiny for downplaying the importance of face masks and his reported views on “herd immunity,” an approach that holds that once enough individuals have been infected and become immune, others are less likely to be infected.

Atlas was a late addition to the White House’s coronavirus task force, joining the team in August.

In a subsequent tweet later Saturday morning, Atlas said “the right policy is @realDonaldTrump’s guideline: use masks for their intended purpose — when close to others, especially hi risk,” he wrote. “Otherwise social distance. No widespread mandates. #CommonSense.”

However, in June, the World Health Organization recommended everyone wear a fabric or non-medical mask in public areas where there is a risk of transmission.

“Masks are a key measure to suppress transmission and save lives. Masks reduce potential exposure risk from an infected person whether they have symptoms or not,” the organization’s website reads.

“People wearing masks are protected from getting infected. Masks also prevent onward transmission when worn by a person who is infected.”

While Trump has said wearing a mask is appropriate in some settings, he has not issued a countrywide mask mandate.

What’s more, the Republican president has also repeatedly mocked his Democratic challenger, Joe Biden, for wearing masks in public.

“I don’t wear a mask like him, every time you see him he’s got a mask on. He could be 200 feet away, and he shows up with the biggest mask I’ve ever seen,” Trump said during the first presidential debate earlier this month.

Trump himself contracted COVID-19 earlier this month, and spent three days seeking treatment for the respiratory illness at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Maryland.

However, with less than three weeks until the election, the president has sought to downplay the threat of the virus.

“The light at the end of the tunnel is near. We are rounding the turn,” Trump told supporters Friday at an event in Fort Myers, Florida. “Don’t listen to the cynics and angry partisans and pessimists.”

Meanwhile, the United States remained the epicentre of the virus on Sunday, with more than 8.1 million confirmed cases.

The virus has also claimed 219,311 lives in the U.S., according to a tally from Johns Hopkins University.

Since it was first detected in Wuhan, China late last year, it has killed 1,110,955 around the world.

–With a file from Reuters and the Associated Press

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