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Controversial Trump Covid adviser resigns, vaccine hope faces misinformation threat and Santa social distances

"We do elections well here in Arizona," Republican Gov. Doug Ducey said Monday as he certified President-elect Joe Biden's win in the battleground state.
Image: Scott Atlas
Dr. Scott Atlas, a neuroradiologist who had no infectious disease background, resigned Monday from his position as a special adviser to President Donald Trump on the coronavirus pandemic.Alex Brandon / AP file

Good morning, NBC News readers.

A polarizing figure on President Donald Trump's coronavirus task force resigned, anti-vaccine groups grow louder, and Arizona certifies President-elect Joe Biden's victory in the battleground state.

Here is what we're watching this first day of December.

Controversial White House coronavirus adviser Scott Atlas resigns

Dr. Scott Atlas, the controversial White House coronavirus adviser, has resigned.

"I am writing to resign from my position as special adviser to the president of the United States," Atlas said in a resignation letter posted to Twitter late Monday, which is dated Dec. 1 and addressed to President Donald Trump.

Atlas, a neuroradiologist on leave from the Hoover Institution, a conservative think tank affiliated with Stanford University, has no background in infectious diseases. He has spread misinformation about the virus, including questioning the efficacy of masks, and urged the White House to embrace a strategy of "herd immunity."

His stance was at loggerheads with many other members of the coronavirus task force.

"Everything he says is false," Dr. Robert Redfield, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, was overheard saying about Atlas by an NBC News' reporter in September.

In a statement reacting to his resignation, his peers at Stanford's medical school said late Monday that "Dr. Scott Atlas’ resignation today is long overdue and underscores the triumph of science and truth over falsehoods and misinformation."

Kids lost ground when Covid shut schools — especially Black and Latino students

When the Covid-19 pandemic forced the closure of most U.S. schools last spring, students were thrown into new and unfamiliar ways of learning.

The true toll the disruptions have taken on student learning won’t be known for months or years, but new reports from national education-testing organizations have begun to offer an early look at that impact.

An analysis of 4.4 million student test scores by the NWEA testing organization found students fell short in math — especially Black, Hispanic and poor students.

Helping these catch up is a major concern for educators.

"Once you have broken a child’s confidence, it’s difficult to get them to continue to push forward," said Kevin Culley, a teacher in Dallas, Texas.

Here are some other coronavirus developments:

Biden receives first presidential daily briefing as Arizona certifies his win

President-elect Joe Biden on Monday received his first presidential daily briefing since he won the election, a victory that was further cemented when the battleground state of Arizona certified his win there.

The certification of Arizona's 11 Electoral College votes came as President Trump and his allies continue to allege without evidence rampant voter fraud in Arizona and other battleground states that Trump lost.

At the same time the vote was being certified in Phoenix, Trump campaign lawyer Rudy Giuliani was at a hotel about two miles away pushing a number of unfounded conspiracy theories aimed at undermining the election results.

But the state's Republican Gov. Doug Ducey and other election officials stood by the voting process Monday.

"We do elections well here in Arizona. The system is strong, and that's why I have bragged on it so much," Ducey said as he oversaw the certification.

In other transition news, Biden is expected to introduce members of his economics team, including Neera Tanden, his pick to lead the Office of Management and Budget, on Tuesday in Wilmington, Delaware.

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THINK about it

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One different thing

Even with the pandemic, kids' once a year visit with Santa Claus is still on.

But it's going to look a little different. Santa is social distancing behind plexiglass, elves are taking temperatures and kids are wearing masks.

But Santa has a message for kids: It's OK.

"We're doing this to help save lives. And to protect us and each other from getting the virus," Santa told NBC News' Rehema Ellis. "We will get through this."

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Thanks, Petra