A subcommittee of the U.S. House of Representatives that's investigating the Trump administration's response to the COVID-19 pandemic has criticized Trump officials for what it said was their role in changing federal guidelines for COVID-19 testing due to political concerns.
In a November 12 press release, the House select subcommittee on the coronavirus crisis included a critique of the performance of neuroradiologist Dr. Scott Atlas as President Trump's special advisor on dealing with the pandemic. The subcommittee, chaired by Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC), is investigating allegations that the U.S. government's response to the pandemic was undermined for political reasons by the Trump administration.
Atlas became a lightning rod for criticism from the moment he joined the administration in August 2020 to provide guidance to Trump on the administration's COVID-19 response. Atlas drew fire for opposing lockdown measures and other tools to reduce the spread of the virus. He resigned in November 2020 after serving four months.
In the new press statement, the subcommittee claimed that Atlas was responsible for watering down guidelines issued by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for testing individuals suspected of being infected with SARS-CoV-2. The CDC guidelines were "abruptly changed on August 24, 2020, to assert -- contrary to scientific consensus -- that most asymptomatic people should not be tested even if they were exposed to someone with the virus," the statement reads.
Dr. Deborah Birx, who served on the White House Coronavirus Task Force during the Trump administration, told the subcommittee earlier this month that "these changes were made specifically to reduce the amount of testing being conducted across the country." The changes were overturned several weeks later with a "clear directive" that testing should be administered to anyone who comes into contact with an infected person -- a revision that was made over objections from senior White House personnel, according to the subcommittee statement.
Atlas has pushed back against the allegations, accusing Birx of an "Orwellian" attempt to "rewrite history." He also charges that Birx and other members of the federal medical establishment -- including Dr. Anthony Fauci and former CDC head Dr. Robert Redfield -- dismissed scientific data he presented to them, particularly in support of reopening schools. Atlas is detailing his charges in a new memoir, "A Plague Upon Our House," according to an article on Fox News.