White House coronavirus task force to hold first briefing in nearly two months

The White House coronavirus task force will hold a press briefing on Friday, marking the first time the group has spoken on camera to the public in roughly two months.

The briefing will take place at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and will be led by Vice President Pence, who chairs the task force.

The announcement comes as cases are spiking in several states. 

ADVERTISEMENT

The task force has been publicly absent for the last two months after the White House halted what had been near-daily briefings on the pandemic. The last task force briefing occurred on April 27, just a few days after President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden on Trump's refusal to commit to peaceful transfer of power: 'What country are we in?' Romney: 'Unthinkable and unacceptable' to not commit to peaceful transition of power Two Louisville police officers shot amid Breonna Taylor grand jury protests MORE sparked widespread backlash by suggesting scientists study injecting light and chemicals into the body as a potential treatment for the virus.

Trump is not expected to be present at Friday's briefing.

The White House has shifted its messaging around the virus in the time since to largely focus on the economic recovery after states shuttered businesses to slow the spread of the disease.

While case numbers, hospitalizations and death tolls dropped significantly in April and May, they have started surging again in Texas, Florida, California, Arizona and North Carolina, among other states, as businesses have reopened and citizens begin mingling again.

The U.S. on Wednesday recorded the largest single-day increase of new COVID-19 cases since the pandemic began, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 2.4 million.  

Texas on Thursday paused the reopening of its economy, but Gov. Greg Abbott (R) has resisted calls to mandate the use of masks and close or reduce capacity at restaurants and bars that are already open. GOP governors in Florida and Arizona have also resisted such measures, which health officials have said can reduce the transmission of the disease.

ADVERTISEMENT

Still, Trump and Pence have projected optimism about the administration's handling of the virus. Pence penned an op-ed last week declaring that fears of a second wave of the virus were "overblown" and largely manufactured by the media.

Trump has stirred fresh controversy by saying at a campaign rally last weekend in Tulsa, Okla., that he told officials to slow down testing because it was identifying too many cases and making the U.S. look bad.

White House officials have said the president was kidding, but Trump has in recent days doubled down on his belief that testing is a "double-edged sword." 

"If we didn’t want to test, or if we didn’t test, we wouldn’t have cases," Trump said Thursday in Wisconsin, while touting the administration's investment in manufacturing. "But we have cases because we test. Deaths are down. We have one of the lowest mortality rates. We’ve done an incredible, historic job.”