I’ve written about this guy, Paul Alexander, before. He was brought in as the “science advisor” to Trump loyalist Michael Caputo, who was installed at HHS in April as the department’s chief spokesman — ostensibly. His real job, it seems, was to ride herd on scientists within the department and make sure that they didn’t say or do too much to contradict the White House’s message that it was safe to reopen the economy. Caputo took a leave from the administration in mid-September after he posted a bizarre Facebook video claiming that the CDC was guilty of “sedition” and that there might be a plot to kill him. Alexander left around the same time. Stories began trickling out soon after about how the two had browbeat top scientists at the CDC, accusing them of trying to embarrass the president with their play-it-safe guidance on containing the virus.
I don’t think anyone in the administration has ever publicly admitted it, including Scott Atlas (who’s also since left), but the White House’s de facto approach to the pandemic by fall was a herd immunity strategy. Open the economy, go about your business, there’s nothing to fear if you’re not elderly. Trump himself famously made a pitch along those lines when he returned to the White House after being hospitalized for COVID, urging people not to let the virus dominate their lives. But the words “herd immunity” were rarely uttered for good reason: If you’re aiming for that, necessarily you’re either indifferent to many people getting infected or you’re downright enthusiastic about it. You’re playing a numbers game in which the more healthy Americans get the virus, the better it is in accelerating the end of the pandemic.
You’re pro-infection, in other words. Which is a weird thing to be about a disease that’s killed 300,000 people and decimated the U.S. economy.