WH begins talks on winding down coronavirus task force, says VP

Washington: The Trump administration has initiated talks on winding down the White House Task Force on Coronavirus and gradually delegating its responsibilities to the relevant federal agencies, US Vice President Mike Pence said on Tuesday.

Pence leads the task force.

“I think we are 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 told a select group of reporters.

The White House has already begun to talk about a transition plan with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), he said.

The news was first reported by The New York Times.

In Arizona, President Donald Trump also confirmed the news.

“I think we are looking at phase two and we are looking at other phases,” he said, adding that the country is starting to open up and noting that the task force has done “a phenomenal job”.

Responding to a question, Trump indicated that the task force has done an incredible job. The president said he would not need to consult certain people, such as those who worked on ventilators.

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“We will have something in a different form,” he said, describing the need to focus on both safety and reopening.

Asked why is now the time to wind down the task force if there could be a recurrence, he said, “Because we cannot close our country down for the next five years. The administration has learned a lot.”

The president noted that health experts believe there could be a recurrence but they would need to “put it out”.

By Tuesday, more than 71,000 Americans had died in the last three months due to coronavirus and the number of those infected crossed 12 lakh, the highest across the world. But with the decline in the number of new cases and fatalities over the last one week, quite a few states have started opening up.

“It really is all a reflection of the tremendous progress we have made as a country. The president stood up the White House Coronavirus Task Force in January to marshal a national response,” Pence told reporters at the White House.

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As the head of the task force, Pence has held daily meetings with its members comprising eminent doctors, health experts, heads of multiple federal agencies and cabinet members.

“As I have said before, as we continue to practise 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. And by late May and early June — and that probably represents the timetable for our agencies,” he said.

Responding to a question, Pence said the task force might be closed by early June.

“I think we are starting to look at the Memorial Day window, early June window, as a time when we could begin to transition back to having our agencies to manage our national response in a more traditional manner,” he said.

Dr Deborah Birx, a member of the task force, said the White House will “continue to review and analyse data and work with the departments in agencies to help that data inform their decision-making processes”.

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