US President Donald Trump said the White House’s coronavirus task force will soon be wound down as the country moves ahead on plans to reopen, but noted that experts like Dr Anthony Fauci and Dr Deborah Birx will stay to advise.
“Mike Pence and the task force have done a great job, but we’re now looking at a little bit of a different form and that form is safety and opening and we’ll have a different group probably set up for that,” Trump said on a visit to a mask factory in Phoenix, Arizona on Tuesday, adding that certain specialists on the task force would carry on their work.
While top health officials on the task force, such as Dr Fauci and Dr Birx, will stay on in their advisory roles, the president said it was time to proceed to the next stage of planning, which will focus less on containment efforts and shift to reopening states that have been shuttered under sweeping lockdown measures imposed to stem the spread of the virus.
“We can’t keep our country closed for the next five years,” the president said in response to concerns the virus could resurface in the fall for a second wave, as some experts have warned.
You can say there might be a recurrence, and there might be, most doctors say it will happen, and it’ll be a flame, and we’ll put the flame out.
Asked whether the administration was declaring victory in the battle against the pandemic, Trump insisted it was not, saying “No, not at all. The ‘mission accomplished’ is when it’s over.”
The comments followed a report in the New York Times earlier on Monday on the task force’s rollback, which triggered outcry that the administration was prematurely announcing victory over the virus. The White House soon weighed in to rebut the criticism, however, arguing the reporting was “being misconstrued” and that medical experts would continue to advise the president.
Reporting on the task force is being misconstrued to suggest the White House is no longer involving medical experts. This is totally false.President @realDonaldTrump will continue his data-driven approach towards safely re-opening.
— Kayleigh McEnany (@PressSec) May 5, 2020
While no solid timeframe has been given, the scale-down could come later this month, around Memorial Day, Vice President Mike Pence told reporters, stressing that the White House intends to retain Birx, the task force’s coordinator, for “every bit as long as we need to.”
As governors mull how and when to reopen in accordance with federal guidelines, thousands of residents across a series of states have taken to the streets to protest the lockdown measures, demanding they be allowed to return to work and resume their lives as normal.
More than 30 million Americans have lost their jobs due to the lockdowns, drowning unemployment offices under a flood of new claims. Many states are reluctant to reopen too quickly, however, fearing a spike in new cases. The coronavirus has infected some 1.2 million people and killed more than 70,000 in the US so far.
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