USAID shutting down task force set up to tackle coronavirus pandemic

USAID shutting down task force set up to tackle coronavirus pandemic
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The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) will discontinue its coronavirus pandemic task force.

The task force is set to be shut down Wednesday, according to an internal memo first shared with Politico.

“As we approach the deactivation of the Task Force on Sept. 9, the entire team is focused on ensuring a smooth transition of key functions back to Bureaus and Independent Offices,” the note read.

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The move comes as the coronavirus pandemic continues to spread, with the death toll nearing 190,000 in the U.S. and 900,000 worldwide.

Despite this, the Trump administration has increasingly presented the pandemic as largely in the past, with White House economic adviser Larry KudlowLarry KudlowMORE referring to it in the past tense at the Republican National Convention.

The White House has mostly ended its pandemic-related briefings and, after becoming the face of the federal response, Anthony FauciAnthony FauciTillis appears to reinforce question about COVID-19 death toll Overnight Health Care: Trump signs largely symbolic pre-existing conditions order amid lawsuit | White House puts off action on surprise medical bills | Rising coronavirus cases spark fears of harsh winter NY health officials to review any vaccine approved by Trump MORE and Deborah BirxDeborah BirxAtlas contradicts Redfield on population susceptibility to coronavirus Controversial CDC guidelines were written by HHS officials, not scientists: report Trump coronavirus adviser threatens to sue Stanford researchers MORE have been largely out of sight.

An administration official expressed concern about how the lack of a coordinating task force would affect the fight against the pandemic.

“Now everyone is going to be fighting because there is no central place,” the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told Politico.

Another official, however, said the task force had too broad a mandate to be effective.

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“It was far too large and bureaucratic,” the official told the publication.

Acting USAID Administrator John Barsa said in testimony to Congress this summer that many of the task force’s responsibilities would be handled by a new planning cell called “Over the Horizon” in the long term.

“While USAID’s COVID-19 Task Force has managed the near-term challenges directly related to the pandemic, Over the Horizon will perform research, conduct outreach, and prepare analyses around key strategic questions to help the Agency prepare for lasting challenges to the development and humanitarian landscape in the medium to long term,” he testified.