President Donald Trump fired back at reports that he is disbanding the coronavirus task force that took Americans through the last several months of the pandemic, posting on Twitter plans to keep the team together “indefinitely” as the administration pursues a coronavirus vaccine and successful therapies for COVID-19.
Late Tuesday, Politico released a report claiming that the White House was considering “winding down” the coronavirus task force and shifting its focus from the disease itself to economic recovery.
Instead of a centralized team of experts, which now includes Vice President Mike Pence, infectious disease specialist Dr. Deborah Birx, and director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Dr. Anthony Fauci, Politico said, the Trump administration would farm out various aspects of coronavirus management to agencies like Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
Pence seemed to confirm the plan to news sources Tuesday, when he told reporters that, “[w]e’re having a conversation about that and about what the proper time is for the task force to complete its work,” and that “[w]e’ve already begun to talk about a transition plan with FEMA.”
The Vice President called those talks “preliminary,” but mainstream media sources reported the comments as confirmation that the White House would be bringing a swift end to its in-house COVID-19 project.
President Trump dismissed those reports Wednesday morning, suggesting that the White House’s coronavirus team would continue on “indefinitely,” and that it would feature a rotating cast of experts, rather than two or three permanent members, so that the administration could shift focus quickly based on need.
“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,” the President tweeted, citing his administration’s accomplishments.
“Ventilators, which were few & in bad shape, are now being produced in the thousands, and we have many to spare. We are helping other countries which are desperate for them. Likewise, after having been left little, we are now doing more testing than all other countries combined, and with superior tests,” he continued. “Face masks & shields, gloves, gowns etc. are now plentiful. The last four Governors teleconference calls have been conclusively strong.”
He then suggested that a second coronavirus task force, charged with “openining up” the American economy, could be subsumed into the existing coronavirus team.
“Because of this success, the Task Force will continue on indefinitely with its focus on SAFETY & OPENING UP OUR COUNTRY AGAIN. We may add or subtract people to it, as appropriate,” he said.
Concluding the tweetstorm, the president reiterated that the current COVID-19 team is not just focused on outbreak management and strategic oversight, but on guiding the development and approval of key medical breakthroughs: “The Task Force will also be very focused on Vaccines & Therapeutics. Thank you!”
The White House’s coronavirus task force is holding only sporadic press conferences, but is expected to address media this week, particularly as states begin to resume economic activity.
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