A member of the White House coronavirus task force has told NPR that President Donald Trump has not met with them "for quite some time," and suggested that he was more focused on campaigning for his reelection than attending meetings about the pandemic.
Dr. Francis Collins, the director of the National Institutes for Health (NIH) said that Trump is mainly getting his updates from Vice President Mike Pence and fellow task force member Dr. Scott Atlas, a health-policy expert who has been criticized by the medical community for his anti-lockdown advice. Neither Pence nor Atlas are infectious-disease experts.
"I think the president primarily is getting his information from the vice president, from Dr. Atlas, obviously it's a bit of a chaotic time with the election," said Collins.
"So, yeah, there's not a direct connection between the task force members and the president as there was a few months ago. But this seems to be a different time with different priorities."
Collins did not say how long it had been since Trump had attended a task force meeting, but told NPR: "The task force continues to meet regularly at least once a week and to wrestle with a whole lot of the issues, especially now that we see the worsening of the pandemic in the middle of the country, which is really quite a serious concern."
The US has entered its third wave of coronavirus cases, with the Midwest recording new spikes.
Collins added that Pence, who leads the coronavirus task force, presides over its meetings and is "incredibly engaged."
The White House did not immediately respond to Business Insider's request for comment on Collins' interview.
The remarks underline the growing influence of Atlas with the president over other experts on the task force.
Atlas' specialisms are in health policy and neuroradiology, while other task force members have expertise in infectious diseases and public health.
Like the president, Atlas is against lockdowns and has issued mixed messages on mask wearing. According to The Washington Post, he has also pushed for a "herd immunity" strategy, though he has vehemently denied it.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top US infectious-disease expert, and CDC Director Robert Redfield have also questioned Atlas' scientific advice. Redfield was overheard saying last month that "everything" Atlas said "is false," while Fauci has said that he worried about Atlas passing misleading information to the president.
Atlas hit back at both of those criticisms in an interview with Business Insider earlier this month, adding: "I'm here because the country's off the rails."