Dr. Scott Atlas, right, President Donald Trump's new pandemic advisor, gestures as Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis looks on during a news conference at the University of South Florida Morsani College of Medicine and Heart Institute Monday, Aug. 31, 2020, in Tampa, Fla.

DeSantis brings White House adviser to back school reopenings. But Atlas denies promoting ‘herd immunity’ strategy.

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South Florida Sun Sentinel | By Cindy Krischer Goodman | August 31, 2020

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis whisked across Florida on Monday alongside Dr. Scott Atlas, recently appointed by President Donald Trump to the U.S. coronavirus task force, to assure Floridians it is safe to re-open schools.

WIth 1.1 million Florida children participating in face-to-face learning, DeSantis and Atlas spoke in Tallahassee, Central Florida and Tampa to share the message that children are at low risk for any severe bout with COVID-19 and that schools should be open.

Atlas, a frequent guest on Fox News, has been a critic of coronavirus lockdowns and has campaigned for kids to return to the classroom and for the return of college sports, just like Trump and DeSantis. His approach differs from Drs. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious diseases expert, and Deborah Birx, the task force’s coordinator, who have been cautious about reopening too fast.

In Florida on Monday, Atlas repeatedly emphasized that he and DeSantis share the Trump three-pronged strategy: Protect the vulnerable and high-risk individuals, keep hospitals open and functioning, and open schools and society.

“It’s not about stopping COVID-19 at all costs,” Atlas said.

With the University of South Florida as the backdrop for his messaging, Atlas said, “It really harmful to our children to have schools closed. Online learning is not the same.”

“It’s not about stopping COVID-19 at all costs,” Atlas said.

With the University of South Florida as the backdrop for his messaging, Atlas said, “It really harmful to our children to have schools closed. Online learning is not the same.”

“You have to look at data and understand schools are a low-risk environment,” Atlas said. “Children are a very low-risk population. There is virtually zero risk of death and low risk of hospitalization. … less than seasonal influenza.”

As the remaining 18 school districts in Florida went back to school on Monday, Atlas, DeSantis and Florida’s Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran emphasized the disadvantages of not opening schools for in-person learning, citing unreported child abuse, food insecurity, achievement gaps and undiscovered vision or hearing issues.

“When you close schools it is enormously destructive,” Atlas said. “We are the only country that seems to be willing to sacrifice our children out of our own fear.

All three South Florida school districts began the school year with distance learning, including Miami-Dade County, which started on Monday. Of the 2.8 million children public schools, 1.7 million are enrolled in online learning. Even in districts open for in-person learning, students have the choice to attend class online.

A senior fellow with Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, Atlas has no expertise in public health or infectious diseases. His job is to investigate the impact of government and the private sector on access, quality, and pricing in healthcare along with issues related to the future of technology-based medical advances.

Throughout the Monday briefings, Atlas praised DeSantis’ coronavirus response, his handing of protecting the elderly from the virus, and the re-opening of the state. “Florida is a great example of how the federal government works well with the state,” Atlas said.

“You have to look at data and understand schools are a low-risk environment,” Atlas said. “Children are a very low-risk population. There is virtually zero risk of death and low risk of hospitalization. … less than seasonal influenza.”

As the remaining 18 school districts in Florida went back to school on Monday, Atlas, DeSantis and Florida’s Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran emphasized the disadvantages of not opening schools for in-person learning, citing unreported child abuse, food insecurity, achievement gaps and undiscovered vision or hearing issues.

“When you close schools it is enormously destructive,” Atlas said. “We are the only country that seems to be willing to sacrifice our children out of our own fear.”

All three South Florida school districts began the school year with distance learning, including Miami-Dade County, which started on Monday. Of the 2.8 million children public schools, 1.7 million are enrolled in online learning. Even in districts open for in-person learning, students have the choice to attend class online.

A senior fellow with Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, Atlas has no expertise in public health or infectious diseases. His job is to investigate the impact of government and the private sector on access, quality, and pricing in healthcare along with issues related to the future of technology-based medical advances.

Throughout the Monday briefings, Atlas praised DeSantis’ coronavirus response, his handing of protecting the elderly from the virus, and the re-opening of the state. “Florida is a great example of how the federal government works well with the state,” Atlas said.

Photo: Dr. Scott Atlas, right, President Donald Trump’s new pandemic advisor, gestures as Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis looks on during a news conference at the University of South Florida Morsani College of Medicine and Heart Institute Monday, Aug. 31, 2020, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara) [ CHRIS O’MEARA | AP ]