US COVID-19 task force to continue indefinitely: Trump

Washington, May 7 (IANS) US President Donald Trump said that the White House Coronavirus Task Force will continue “indefinitely”, a day after officials hinted that the team would wind down.

The task force “will continue on indefinitely with its focus on SAFETY & OPENING UP OUR COUNTRY AGAIN”, Trump tweeted on Wednesday, adding that the administration “may add or subtract people to it”.

He also said the response team will focus on developing vaccines and therapeutics for the coronavirus, reports Xinhua news agency.

Vice President Mike Pence, who heads the task force, said on Tuesday that “conversations are being had about winding down the work for the task force,” and that the White House is looking at the Memorial Day — which falls on May 25 — as a possible “window”.

He made the remarks in a briefing in response to a question about a New York Times report on the potential disbanding of the team.

“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, adding that talks were ongoing about a transition plan with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

The possible adjustment to the task force, whose members include the US' top infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci, came after the New York Times, citing an internal document acquired from FEMA, reported that daily coronavirus-related deaths in the country could nearly double to reach about 3,000 by June 1.

It also predicted that new cases will probably average at 200,000 a day by the end of May, up from the current daily rate of about 25,000.

White House spokesman Judd Deere said in a statement on Monday that the document had nothing to do with the White House, “nor has it been presented to the coronavirus task force or gone through inter-agency vetting”.

The US currently accounts for the highest number of COVID-19 cases and deaths in the world.

As of Thursday morning, there were 1,228,603 cases, with 73,431 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins University.



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