Vice President Mike Pence on Friday announced five new members of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, as the group moved to help Americans get back to work and allow businesses across the country to safely reopen.
“Thanks to President Trump’s leadership and the efforts of the American people, we’ve saved lives, slowed the spread, and states are opening up again,” Pence said in a statement.
“The new members of the White House Coronavirus Task Force will add expertise in the fields of vaccines and therapeutics as well as worker safety as the task force renews its focus on getting Americans back to work,” he said.
The new members include Sonny Perdue, secretary of agriculture; Gene Scalia, secretary of labor; Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health; Dr. Peter Marks, director of the Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research at the Food and Drug Administration; and Thomas Engels, administrator of the Health Resources and Services Administration.
Collins is the supervisor to Dr. Anthony Fauci, a current member of the task force, as well as the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
The task force was established on Jan. 29 to lead the Trump administration’s efforts to “monitor, contain, and mitigate the spread” of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus—also known as the novel coronavirus—while providing Americans accurate and up-to-date health and travel information, according to a White House statement.
Pence said in early May that the White House was considering scaling back the task force.
“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 told reporters in an off-camera White House briefing.
“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. And by late May and early June—and that probably represents the timetable for our agencies.”
However, the next day Trump announced on Twitter that “the task force will continue on indefinitely” and focus on safely reopening the country as well as be “very focused” on vaccines and therapeutics.
“I thought we could wind it down sooner. But I had no idea how popular the task force is until actually yesterday. When I started talking about winding it down, I’d get calls from very respected people saying, ‘I think it would be better to keep it going. It’s done such a good job.’ It’s a respected task force,” Trump said at the Oval Office on May 6.
The Trump administration is focusing on having 300 million vaccine doses for the CCP virus ready by January 2021, via an effort called “Operation Warp Speed.”
The president Friday announced that Moncef Slaoui will be the chief scientist for the operation. Trump described Slaoui as “a world-renowned immunologist who helped create 14 new vaccines in 10 years, during his time in the private sector. One of the most respected men in the world in the production and, really, on the formulation of vaccines.”
Slaoui sits on the board of Moderna, a U.S. company currently testing a CCP virus vaccine candidate it developed.