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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.

Go deeper

Updated Oct 7, 2020 - Health

World coronavirus updates

Expand chart
Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Axios Visuals

New Zealand now has active no coronavirus cases in the community after the final six people linked to the Auckland cluster recovered, the country's Health Ministry confirmed in an email Wednesday.

The big picture: The country's second outbreak won't officially be declared closed until there have been "no new cases for two incubation periods," the ministry said. Auckland will join the rest of NZ in enjoying no domestic restrictions from late Wednesday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said, declaring that NZ had "beat the virus again."

Aug 13, 2020 - Health

Coronavirus cases are falling, but don't get too comfortable

Expand chart
Data: The COVID Tracking Project, state health departments; Map: Andrew Witherspoon, Danielle Alberti, Sara Wise/Axios

America's coronavirus outbreak is slowing down after a summer of explosive growth.

By the numbers: The U.S. is averaging roughly 52,000 new cases per day — still a lot of cases, but about 10.5% fewer than it was averaging last week.

Updated 13 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Health: FDA OKs antiviral drug remdesivir for non-hospitalized COVID patients — Walensky: CDC language "pivoting" on "fully vaccinated" — Pfizer and Moderna boosters overwhelmingly prevent Omicron hospitalizations, CDC finds.
  2. Vaccines: The case for Operation Warp Speed 2.0 — Teens and adults missed 37 million vaccinations during COVID — Team USA 100% vaccinated against COVID ahead of Beijing Olympics — Kids' COVID vaccination rates are particularly low in rural America — Annual COVID vaccine preferable to boosters, says Pfizer CEO.
  3. Politics: Arizona governor sues Biden administration over COVID funds tied to mandates — Biden concedes U.S. should have done more testing — Arizona says it "will not be intimidated" by Biden on anti-mask school policies.
  4. World: American Airlines flight to London forced to turn around over mask dispute — WHO: COVID health emergency could end this year — Greece imposes vaccine mandate for people 60 and older — Austria approves COVID vaccine mandate for adults — Beijing officials urge COVID-19 "emergency mode" before Winter Olympics.
  5. Variant tracker

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