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Coronavirus Task Force Set to Wind Down Soon

donald trump is shown during a white house coronavirus task force press briefing
President Donald Trump speaks at the Coronavirus Task Force press briefing at the White House in Washington on April 21, 2020. (Yuri Gripas/Sipa via AP Images)

By    |   Tuesday, 05 May 2020 03:37 PM EDT

The White House is winding down the Coronavirus Task Force, likely by Memorial Day.

The New York Times' Maggie Haberman broke the news on Tuesday, reporting that administration officials and members of the task force had been told that the group's duty's will be phased out in the coming weeks.

The task force has held daily meetings for weeks, and had been holding daily press briefings as well, typically attended by President Donald Trump. Vice President Mike Pence heads up the task force.

One of Pence's top advisers Olivia Troye, told senior officials involved in the task force the group will be winding down in weeks, according to the Times, and other White House officials confirmed that news, according to the report.

Pence himself confirmed the news to reporters, CNN reported Tuesday afternoon, saying the task force's job likely would be completed by Memorial Day, but that the president still would be taking the advice of top doctors while dealing with the crisis.

Trump himself was asked about the news during a trip to Arizona to tour a plant manufacturing N-95 masks.

"I think as far as the task force, Mike Pence and the task force have done a great job," Trump said.

When asked if he was saying "Mission Accomplished," Trump replied, "No," that wouldn't come until "it's over."

The duties would be turned over to "the relevent a"We are now looking at a different form. That form is safety. We will have a different group probably set up."gencies" in the government, such as FEMA, the Department of Health and Human Services and others such as the Department of Agriculture to deal with meat packing plants, Fox News Channel reported.

Conversations are taking place 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.

"We’ve already begun to talk about a transition plan with FEMA," he said, referring to the Federal Emergency Management Agency that has played a lead role in distributing urgently needed supplies across the country.

The U.S. death toll from COVID-19, the disease caused by the highly contagious virus, is the highest in the world.

Democratic politicians and some Republicans have criticized Trump for playing down the threat and now encouraging states to start to re-open economies that were shut down to try to curb the virus' spread.

Pence said on Tuesday the trend lines for infections in the United States are on a positive course and that the country "could be in a very different place by late May or early June."

The University of Washington's influential Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation on Monday doubled its previous forecast for COVID-19 deaths in the United States, however, saying it now predicts the number could reach about 135,000 by early August as social-distancing measures are relaxed.

Deborah Birx, the coronavirus task response coordinator, said the team would "keep a close eye on the data." Birx said the group was looking at outbreaks in Chicago and Des Moines, Iowa, as points of concern.

The focus is now on therapeutics, vaccines and addressing infection hotspots, the task force members said.

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and Food and Drug Administration chief Stephen Hahn said the Trump administration was committed to accelerating the search for a vaccine, with the goal of producing 100 million doses by the autumn and 300 million doses by the end of the year.

"Whether that can be achieved or not, it is realistic," said Azar. "We would not be doing this if we did not think it were realistic. Is it guaranteed? Of course it is not."

Most experts have suggested clinical trials to guarantee a vaccine is safe and effective could take a minimum of 12 to 18 months.

The White House task force has been less visible in recent days as Trump turned his attention to efforts to reopen the U.S. economy. It did not meet on Monday or Saturday. 

Reuters contributed to this report.

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"We are now looking at a different form," Trump said. That form is safety. We will have a different group probably set up."
coronavirus, task force, trump
Tuesday, 05 May 2020 03:37 PM
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