But those working on the government’s COVID response say that the attempts by the White House and Atlas to steer clear from using the phrase “herd immunity” are merely a game of semantics. Privately, one of those sources said, the actual policy pursuits have been crafted around a plainly herd immunity approach; mainly, that the government should prioritize protecting the vulnerable while allowing “everyone else to get infected,” that source said.

In a recent call with reporters, in which The Daily Beast participated, administration officials laid out a new emphasis in the president’s coronavirus policy which underscored “protecting the vulnerable,” key among them nursing home patients. One official said the coronavirus was “dangerous for a certain subset of the population” and that “most people do extraordinary well.”

Officials on the call pointed to a Great Barrington study, which was assembled by a team of scientists who advocate for trying to reach herd immunity through the uncontrolled spread of COVID-19.

Though Atlas insists he has not pushed “herd immunity,” another official said Atlas actually began advocating for the concept—and the president became receptive to it—at the same time as task force officials were being sidelined from conversations about how the administration planned to handle what many predicted would be a difficult fall season.