US President Donald Trump’s controversial special adviser on the coronavirus, Scott Atlas, has resigned.
Thanking Mr. Trump for the honour of serving the American people, Dr. Atlas said he had “always relied on the latest science and evidence without any political consideration or influence”.
During his four months in the role, Dr. Atlas questioned the need for masks and other measures to control the pandemic.
He also repeatedly clashed with other members of the coronavirus task force.
The radiologist and senior fellow at Stanford University’s conservative Hoover Institution joined the task force in August. As well as questioning the usefulness of masks he was against lockdowns and promoted the idea of herd immunity.
He sparked further controversy last month when he tweeted “people rise up” in response to new restrictions imposed in Michigan, just weeks after it emerged the state’s governor, Gretchen Whitmer, was the subject of an alleged kidnapping attempt by militia members opposed to virus mitigation efforts.
Public health experts such as Dr. Anthony Fauci and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) had accused Dr. Atlas of giving President Trump false and misleading information about the spread of the virus.
Academics at his own university strongly criticised him for promoting a view of Covid-19 that they said contradicted medical science. They welcomed his resignation, saying it was “long overdue and underscores the triumph of science and truth over falsehoods and misinformation”.
Fox News said Dr Atlas had joined the administration on a 130-day contract, which was set to expire this week.
In his resignation letter, carried by Fox, Dr Atlas said his advice had “always focused on minimizing all the harms from both the pandemic and the structural policies themselves, especially to the working class and poor”.
He also spoke of the “free exchange of ideas that lead to scientific truths”, adding: “Indeed, I cannot think of a time where safeguarding science and the scientific debate is more urgent.”
Dr Atlas also wished the incoming coronavirus team under the Biden administration “all the best as they guide the nation through these trying, polarized times”.
President-elect Biden has taken a markedly different stance to his predecessor, urging everyone to wear masks and pledging a “bedrock of science” to his policy on tackling the pandemic.
The US has recorded more than 13 million coronavirus cases and more than 266,000 people have died.
As of Sunday, the number of Covid-19 cases recorded in November surpassed four million, double the figure recorded in October.
Millions failed to heed scientists’ appeals to stay at home during the Thanksgiving holiday, prompting Dr. Fauci to warn the US could see “surge upon surge” of cases as people travel back.
The CDC is expected to discuss the rollout of a vaccine with the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices this week, a move which Dr. Fauci said offered a “light at the end of the tunnel”.