The White House is considering scaling back the CCP virus task force as its work could wind down by June, Vice President Mike Pence said Tuesday.
In an off-camera White House briefing, Pence told reporters that the United States may be “in a very different place” by the end of this month and early June, adding that the Trump administration is eyeing the time around Memorial Day weekend as the time to have federal agencies change their responses to the pandemic, according to a transcript from his office.
“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.
He added, “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.”
The move comes as many states are preparing to rescind some restrictions that were imposed to slow the spread of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, a novel coronavirus that emerged in China late last year, and as top health experts have said there has been a decrease in hospitalizations. However, a number of new areas including Des Moines, Iowa, and Chicago have begun to see a surge in cases.
The task force was created in January, and its members have been meeting nearly every day, with Pence being in charge of the group. Up until late last month, the task force, including President Donald Trump, gave daily briefings on the pandemic.
The group has been less visible after Trump and others have tried to transition to reopening the economy. There haven’t been any task force briefings in more than a week.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the federal government’s top infectious diseases expert and a task force member, told CBS News on Tuesday that he was not aware of any discussions to wind down. And Dr. Deborah Birx, the task force’s coordinator, told The Associated Press that the federal government will still keep a close eye on virus data should the task force be disbanded.
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, on Twitter, addressed some of the criticism of the move to wind down the task force. She said it was inaccurate to suggest that Trump would not involve medical experts in reopening the country.
“Reporting on the task force is being misconstrued to suggest the White House is no longer involving medical experts. This is totally false,” she said, adding that Trump “will continue his data-driven approach towards safely re-opening.”
According to data from Johns Hopkins University, the United States has more than 1 million cases of the CCP virus and over 70,000 deaths. Simultaneously, over the past two months, more than 20 million people have filed for unemployment insurance, according to Labor Department statistics.
At the same time, Trump told the New York Post this week that he and McEnany will provide semi-regular briefings on the pandemic.
“You know, we didn’t stop them,” Trump said. “I mean, this is breaking, this, but we didn’t stop them. Because we’ll probably do maybe one a week, sometimes two depending on the news, but Kayleigh’s going to be able to do them.”
Update: The headline on this article was updated on May 5, 2020, to more accurately reflect the content of the article.