WASHINGTON D.C. (CNN) – White House coronavirus task force member Dr. Scott Atlas criticized Michigan’s new Covid-19 restrictions in a tweet shortly after they were announced Sunday evening, urging people to “rise up” against the new public health measures. “The only way this stops is if people rise up,” Atlas wrote. “You get what you accept. #FreedomMatters #StepUp”
His message runs against the consensus of public health officials. It will likely fuel new tension between the White House and Michigan Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, whom federal and state officials announced last month was the target of an alleged domestic terrorism kidnapping plot.
Responding to Atlas’ tweet Sunday evening, Whitmer told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, “We know that the White House likes to single us out here in Michigan, me out in particular. I’m not going to be bullied into not following reputable scientists and medical professionals.”
Instead, Whitmer said, she consults “people that actually have studied and are well respected worldwide on these issues, not the — not the individual that is doing the President’s bidding on this one.”
Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel echoed that message in a pair of tweets Sunday evening, casting Atlas’ posting as “disappointing, irresponsible, and the reason why the United States finds itself in such desperate circumstances regarding COVID-19.”
This statement is disappointing, irresponsible, and the reason why the United States finds itself in such desperate circumstances regarding COVID-19. I look forward to a new federal administration that works cooperatively with our state government to protect Michigan residents. https://t.co/OAnb0epnNh— Dana Nessel (@dananessel) November 16, 2020
“I look forward to a new federal administration that works cooperatively with our state government to protect Michigan residents,” Nessel, a Democrat, said. “A patriot,” she continued, “is one who protects America from its enemies, both foreign and domestic… COVID-19 is the enemy, not each other. Stop pitting Americans against each other and start supporting policies proven to effectively fight the virus.”
Whitmer announced in a news conference earlier Sunday that Michigan will begin a “three-week pause targeting indoor social gatherings and other group activities” to mitigate the spread of Covid-19.
“If everyone does their part, we will see a big benefit from it,” she told Blitzer of the new measures. “But, we’ll be assessing it every step of the way.”
Throughout the pandemic, Whitmer has been the focus of extreme abuse from far-right groups. The alleged scheme to kidnap her included plans to overthrow several state governments that the suspects “believe are violating the US Constitution,” according to a federal criminal complaint. Still, she joins a slate of officials who are tightening their restrictions as coronavirus cases continue to soar.
The United States surpassed 11 million coronavirus cases on Sunday, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. The latest milestone comes just six days after the US recorded 10 million cases.
It was the fastest the US has added one million new cases since the pandemic began. Unlike the government medical experts who advised Trump in the early months of the pandemic, Atlas has adopted a public stance on the virus much closer to the President’s, including decrying the idea that schools cannot reopen this fall as “hysteria” and pushing for the resumption of college sports.
“He’s working with us and will be working with us on the coronavirus,” Trump said in August. “And he has many great ideas. And he thinks what we’ve done is good, and now we’ll take it to a new level.”
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