WASHINGTON — Vice President Mike Pence has confirmed the White House coronavirus task force will begin winding down later this month.
Confirming a New York Times report published earlier in the day, Pence told reporters Tuesday that his goal was to start handing responsibility back to various government agencies by the May 25 Memorial Day weekend as the administration looks to reopen the country.
“I think we’re 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 begin to manage — begin to manage our national response in a more traditional manner,” Pence said.
The Times report said White House officials informed members of the task force that they plan to finish the operation in coming weeks and that there won’t necessarily be a group to replace their efforts.
But it appears the administration forgot to include Dr. Anthony Fauci in the discussions, with the group’s respected infectious disease expert telling CBS on Tuesday that he’d heard no such thing.
Fauci — the highly respected director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases — was asked about the report in a CBS interview that went to air just as Pence confirmed the news to reporters.
He hadn’t heard anything about it, he said.
“That’s not true, I’ve been in every task force meeting, and that’s not what they are doing,” Fauci told reporter Paula Reid.
Pence said the decision to phase-out the task force, established in January, was “a reflection of the tremendous progress we’ve made as a country.”
Appearing with Pence, Dr. Deborah Birx, the task force coordinator, said the federal agencies would continue to keep a “close eye on the data.”
“It took us awhile to build that capacity and we’ll make sure that, you know, we’re watching that at a federal level,” she said.
The administration’s decision to fold the task force comes after a CDC report, published by the Times on Monday, projected the daily US death toll would double between now and June 1.
The Trump administration sharply rebuked the report, saying the president’s decision to reopen the country was based on scientific evidence.
“This is not a White House document nor has it been presented to the Coronavirus Task Force or gone through interagency vetting,” spokesman Judd Deere said.
“This data is not reflective of any of the modeling done by the task force or data that the task force has analyzed.”