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Controversial White House coronavirus adviser Scott Atlas resigns

Atlas, who has no infectious disease background, has spread misinformation about the virus and downplayed its seriousness.

Dr. Scott Atlas, the controversial White House coronavirus adviser, is resigning.

Fox News first reported the news.

"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 said he was on a 130-day detail set to expire this week.

"I thank you for the honor and privilege to serve on behalf of the American people since August, during these difficult months for our nation," he said.

He also said he wished "all the best" to the incoming administration — one of the few explicit acknowledgments from a Trump official about the transition of power.

Atlas, a neuroradiologist on leave from the Hoover Institution, a conservative think tank affiliated with Stanford University, has no background in infectious diseases.

Trump invited him to join the task force in August after having seen him on Fox News.

Like Trump, Atlas has downplayed the seriousness of the virus, questioning the efficacy of masks and urging the White House to embrace a strategy of "herd immunity."

In September, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Robert Redfield, was overheard saying Atlas was spreading misinformation about the virus.

"Everything he says is false," Redfield was overheard saying by an NBC News reporter.

Atlas didn't attend a coronavirus task force meeting for months, and top experts on the panel, like Dr. Deborah Birx and Dr. Anthony Fauci, said they didn't appreciate his input at their meetings.

After Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced a partial shutdown order in response to the virus's growth in the state, Atlas this month called on people to "rise up" against the measures.

Stanford University called the comments "inconsistent with the university's approach in response to the pandemic" and said they reflected Atlas' personal views. Days later, the Stanford faculty passed a resolution condemning his "disdain for established medical knowledge."

Dr. Celine Gounder, a member of President-elect Joe Biden's Covid-19 advisory board, reacted to Atlas' resignation in an interview on CNBC on Monday night, saying she was "relieved that in the future people who are qualified, people who are infectious disease specialists and epidemiologists like me, will lead this effort" to fight the pandemic.

"You wouldn't go to a podiatrist for a heart attack, and that's essentially what was happening," she said.

Atlas said his views were embraced by top epidemiologists at prominent universities. He added that he has recommended social distancing and mask-wearing.

In his resignation letter Atlas sought to defend himself against his critics.

"Like all scientists and health policy scholars, I learned new information and synthesized the latest data from around the world, all in an effort to provide you with the best information to serve the greater good," he wrote.

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."

Reuters contributed.