Dr Anthony Fauci, the government’s top infectious disease expert, initially denied reports that the White House was looking to wind down its coronavirus task force.
“That’s not true,” Fauci initially said yesterday. “I’ve been in every task force meeting, and that’s not what they are doing.”
When the vice president confirmed the news shortly afterwards, it seemed Fauci (and potentially other public health experts on the task force) had been left out of the loop on the conversations.
Trump is now saying the task force will “continue on indefinitely,” but the president noted the group “may add or subtract people … to it, as appropriate,” raising questions about whether Fauci’s role with the group will change.
Fauci, who serves as the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has become a household name since the coronavirus crisis started, and polls show a large majority of Americans trust Fauci as a source of information on the pandemic, while the president has received low ratings on that front.
The New York Times was the first to report yesterday that the White House was looking to wind down its task force in the coming weeks, sparking concerns that the Trump administration was trying to sideline public health experts as the president shifts his focus to reopening the economy.
Vice President Mike Pence quickly confirmed the report, telling reporters yesterday, “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 the administration was looking at Memorial Day or early June as a potential “window” to start winding down the group. “And we’ve already begun to talk about a transition plan with FEMA,” the vice president added.
When asked about Pence’s comments, Trump said, “I think we’re looking at phase two and we’re looking at other phases … the task force has done a phenomenal job.” This morning’s tweet thread from the president indicates the task force’s work will continue, although its members and focus may change.
Trump: White House coronavirus task force to ‘continue on indefinitely’
This is Joan Greve, taking over for Joanna Walters.
Trump has just announced over Twitter that the White House coronavirus task force will “continue on indefinitely,” despite the vice president’s comments yesterday that it would start to wind down in the coming weeks.
In a tweet thread this morning, the president said the task force had done a “fantastic job” addressing the coronavirus crisis.
“Because of this success, the Task Force will continue on indefinitely with its focus on SAFETY & OPENING UP OUR COUNTRY AGAIN,” Trump wrote.
“We may add or subtract people … to it, as appropriate. The Task Force will also be very focused on Vaccines & Therapeutics.”
Good morning, US live blog readers, Donald Trump is back at the White House after his trip to Arizona yesterday and there’s another very full day ahead in US politics and the coronavirus outbreak in the US.
Here’s what we know so far:
- There is widespread public outrage and dismay at the news that the Trump administration plans to wind down its coronavirus taskforce. We’ll bring you further details. Twitter is alight.
- This as a well-sourced new map from the news site Axios shows new cases of coronavirus are rising steeply in Minnesota, Nebraska and Puerto Rico and also increasing in many other states across the midwest and southwest. Numbers are stable in some and decreasing in just a handful of states.
- New White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany will hold her second official briefing at the WH at 4pm ET today. The Guardian will attend.
- The US supreme court continues hearing oral arguments remotely, by telephone, today in the case of the Trump administration’s efforts to undermine attempt the so-called contraceptive mandate, the element of “Obamacare” legislation on health care that requires employer-covered health insurance to include birth control. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg will participate, despite being in hospital for treatment of an infection resulting from a gallstone.