In Turnaround, Trump Denies Plan to Abort Virus Task Force

President Donald Trump flips through a stack of papers as he speaks about the coronavirus at the White House on April 20, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

WASHINGTON (CN) — The White House Coronavirus Task Force isn’t going anywhere, President Donald Trump tweeted Wednesday, overturning an announcement his administration made less than 24 hours earlier.

“The last four Governors teleconference calls have been conclusively strong,” Trump wrote. “Because of this success, the Task Force will continue on indefinitely with its focus on SAFETY & OPENING UP OUR COUNTRY AGAIN.”

Nowhere in the three-part thread does Trump allude to the expiration date Vice President Mike Pence put on the task force Tuesday in an off-camera briefing with reporters Tuesday.

Pence, who heads the task force, said the group would spend the next few weeks winding down gradually and stop meeting by Memorial Day or early June.

“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 said. 

The United States has more than 1.2 million confirmed Covid-19 cases, according to a tracker out of Johns Hopkins, and recent projections attributed to the federal government show that the country will see more than 200,000 new cases per day by June 1. On Tuesday, the nation’s death toll from the disease caused by the novel virus reached 70,000.

Though his presence at task force briefings have become irregular in recent weeks, Dr. Anthony Fauci was among the first to deny Pence’s announcement.

“I’ve been in every task force meeting and that’s not what they are doing,” said Fauci, the nation’s top expert on infectious diseases, in a Tuesday interview with CBS correspondent Paula Reid.

Neither Fauci nor the National Institutes of Health responded to a request for comment Tuesday.  

While Trump denied this morning that there is an end date in place, he did say the White House may “add or subtract people” from the task force as necessary.

The final tweet in the president’s thread on the task force Wednesday says its focus will be “vaccines & therapeutics.”

Pence’s announcement had brought an onslaught of criticism, and its quick denial by Trump has led some to question the objective.

“I think it’s likely that this was an example of scattershot decision-making and weak central leadership,” Ronald Shurin, a professor of American government and policy at University of Connecticut, said in an email Wednesday.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer had slammed Pence’s announcement late Tuesday. 

“It is unthinkable that President Trump would shut down the main task force established to coordinate our nation’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic while we are still in the midst of figuring out the health and economic implications of this pandemic,” the Maryland Democrat said. “It is a shameful abdication of responsibility.” 

Dr. Rob Davidson, executive director of the Committee to Protect Medicare tweeted Tuesday about the announcement as well.

“As an Emergency Doctor who takes responsibility for the lives in my hands, I find it shameful that @realDonaldTrump is disbanding the #coronavirus task force,” Davidson said. “He will blame governors for lives lost while encouraging ‘liberation,’ putting people at risk. These deaths are on him.”

%d bloggers like this: