Updated May 5, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Pence: White House considering disbanding coronavirus task force

Pence
Photo: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

Vice President Mike Pence told reporters on Tuesday that the White House is in "preliminary discussions" to wind down its coronavirus task force, possibly in early June.

Why it matters: The task force, led by Pence, was formed in late January to help navigate the Trump administration's interagency response to the pandemic. The New York Times reported earlier Tuesday that it's not clear whether any group will replace the task force, even as the number of coronavirus cases and deaths in the U.S. continues to surge.

  • President Trump stopped hosting daily task force press briefings after internal polling suggesting that his favorability was taking a hit.
  • Public health officials on the task force like Deborah Birx and Anthony Fauci have at times been forced to contradict Trump's false claims about the virus, creating a media spectacle.

What they're saying:

"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.  And we’ve already begun to talk about a transition plan with FEMA. But it’s — it really is all a reflection of the tremendous progress we’ve made as a country.
The President stood up the White House Coronavirus Task Force to marshal -- in January — to marshal a national response. And as I’ve said before, as we continue to practice social distancing and states engage in safe and responsible reopening plans, I truly believe — and the trend lines support it — that we could be in a very different place."
— Pence to reporters

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany also tweeted Tuesday: "Reporting on the task force is being misconstrued to suggest the White House is no longer involving medical experts. This is totally false."

  • "President Trump will continue his data-driven approach towards safely re-opening," she added.

Between the lines: A senior administration official tells Axios, "To be clear: this is about the Pence-led task force that meets every day. This group winding down and meeting less frequently does NOT mean doctors are being removed from the equation or being pushed out."

  • "Members of the Pence-led task force will continue providing input, though the group will not be meeting in person as regularly as the focus changes toward vaccines, therapeutics, testing, and ultimately re-opening the economy."

The big picture: States are beginning to reopen parts of their economies based on federal guidance released by the task force.

  • Health experts caution that moving too quickly could cause a spike in cases in some regions, even as the outbreak in New York begins to subside.
  • The U.S. currently has nearly 1.2 million confirmed cases of the coronavirus and a death toll of over 70,000.
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