Trump says White House coronavirus task force will continue 'indefinitely,' one day after he flirted with disbanding it

Carlos Barria/ReutersOfficials including President Donald Trump at a coronavirus press briefing on February 26.
  • President Donald Trump on Wednesday said the White House coronavirus task force would continue “indefinitely” because of its “success.”
  • “The White House CoronaVirus Task Force, headed by Vice President Mike Pence, has done a fantastic job of bringing together vast highly complex resources that have set a high standard for others to follow in the future,” Trump tweeted.
  • As he explained why he changed his mind, Trump later said he had no idea how “popular” the task force was.
  • This came less than a day after Trump and Vice President Mike Pence signalled that the task force would be disbanded as soon as this month, which appeared to be news to top officials in the group like Dr. Anthony Fauci.
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President Donald Trump on Wednesday said the White House’s coronavirus task force would continue “indefinitely,” less than a day after the president and Vice President Mike Pence signalled the group would be disbanded.

“The White House CoronaVirus Task Force, headed by Vice President Mike Pence, has done a fantastic job of bringing together vast highly complex resources that have set a high standard for others to follow in the future,” Trump tweeted. “Because of this success, the Task Force will continue on indefinitely with its focus on SAFETY & OPENING UP OUR COUNTRY AGAIN.”

The president added: “We may add or subtract people to it, as appropriate. The Task Force will also be very focused on Vaccines & Therapeutics. Thank you!”

Later in the day, as Trump explained why he changed his mind, the president said, “I had no idea how popular the task force is until actually yesterday.”

Just a day earlier, Pence on Tuesday said the White House was considering disbanding the task force by Memorial Day. The task force, which is led by Pence, is a hodgepodge of White House officials, public-health experts, and other emergency-management officials from various federal agencies.

“I think we’re having conversations about that and about what the proper time is for the task force to complete its work and for the ongoing efforts to take place on an agency-by-agency level,”Pence said. “And we’ve already begun to talk about a transition plan with FEMA.”

He added: “I think we’re starting to look at the Memorial Day window, early-June window as a time when we could begin to transition back to having our agencies begin to manage – begin to manage our national response in a more traditional manner.”

Separately, while at an event in Arizona, Trump said: “Mike Pence and the task force have done a great job, but we’re now looking at a little bit of a different form, and that form is safety and opening. And we’ll have a different group probably set up for that.”

On top of the mixed messaging from the president and vice president, top public-health officials on the task force on Tuesday did not appear to be cognisant there were conversations about breaking up the group. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious-disease expert and a member of the task force, told CBS News’ Paula Reid it was “not true” that the task force was winding down.

The US is the epicentre of the coronavirus pandemic, with the most reported cases and confirmed fatalities in the world. As some states move to reopen and ease restrictions, which is something Trump strongly condones, public-health experts have warned to expect a spike in cases and deaths. Privately, the Trump administration is said to have predicted that the US’s daily coronavirus death toll will almost double next month – with daily deaths increasing from about 1,750 at present to roughly 3,000 by June 1.

Trump in a Tuesday interview with ABC News’ “World News Tonight” anchor David Muir conceded that the death toll was likely to rise as a result of the reopening.

“There’ll be more death, that the virus will pass, with or without a vaccine. And I think we’re doing very well on the vaccines, but, with or without a vaccine, it’s going to pass, and we’re going to be back to normal,” Trump, who has faced widespread criticism over his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, told Muir.

As of Wednesday morning, there were over 1.2 million reported coronavirus cases in the US and more than 71,000 reported deaths.

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