Trump says coronavirus task force will remain ‘indefinitely’ but will evolve

President Trump signaled Wednesday that the White House coronavirus task force would not be dissolved entirely but would evolve, saying it would remain in place “indefinitely” but that he may “add or subtract” officials to or from it.

The president said in a series of tweets that the task force will now focus on safely reopening the United States amid the novel coronavirus pandemic, echoing remarks he made on Tuesday during a trip to Phoenix. Trump also said that the task force would be “very focused” on vaccines and therapeutics.

His remarks came a day after Vice President Pence signaled the White House would wind down the work of the task force, indicating a shift in those plans.

“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 Wednesday morning.

“The last four Governors teleconference calls have been conclusively strong,” Trump continued. “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.”

The president did not elaborate on who could be added or removed.

Pence said Tuesday that the White House was in the early stages of winding down the coronavirus task force, a move that would come as states execute plans to loosen coronavirus restrictions put in place to slow the spread of the virus so that businesses can begin reopening.

“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 at a limited briefing with reporters, saying that the task force’s work could be scaled back by Memorial Day.

Speaking to reporters in Phoenix on Tuesday, Trump said that the White House was looking at composing a “different group” to focus on reopening safely, but signaled Deborah Birx and Anthony Fauci, two top health experts on the task force, would still be involved, in addition to others.

“They will be, and so will other doctors and so will other experts in the field,” Trump told reporters when asked about the two doctors.

Trump has been eager for states to reopen as the curve of cases nationwide flattens in order to revive the U.S. economy, which has been devastated by the business closures countrywide.

Still, coronavirus cases domestically continue to rise, and health experts have pointed to a lack of testing capabilities nationwide that threaten to hamper efforts to contain future outbreaks as states lift stay-at-home orders.

Trump also acknowledged Tuesday that some people would be “affected badly” as the country moves to reopen.

“We can’t keep our country closed for the next five years, you know,” Trump told reporters when asked why now was the time to wind down the task force. “You could say there might be a recurrence, and there might be. And, you know, most doctors or some doctors say that it will happen and it’ll be a flame and we’re going to put the flame out.”

Trump convened the task force in late January as the novel coronavirus began to spread globally and, a month later, appointed Pence to lead the effort. Birx, a top State Department official working on the global effort against AIDS, was tapped thereafter to coordinate the federal response to the coronavirus.

The task force staged regular press briefings during the months of March and April but have been less visible over the past two weeks.

Trump has traded the briefings for more structured medial appearances with a focus on the economic recovery efforts. The decision to scale back the briefings came after Trump was widely criticized for suggesting at an April 23 briefing that the use of disinfectant be studied as a potential treatment for COVID-19.  

—Updated at 11:39 a.m.

Tags Anthony Fauci Donald Trump Mike Pence

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