Trump to scrap Covid-19 task force despite US recording over 70,000 death
London, May 6, 2020 (AltAfrica)–Donald Trump is preparing to scrap the White House coronavirus taskforce even as the US death toll has topped 70,000 and experts warn that the worst is yet to come.
Vice President Mike Pence said Tuesday that the emergency task force he heads will not be needed much longer than the end of this month.
“I think we’re starting to look at the Memorial Day (May 25) window, early June window” for shutting it down, he told reporters.
But in the wake of a leaked internal White House report suggesting that the daily US death toll will climb to 3,000 per day by June, the move is likely to fuel concerns that Trump has all but abandoned a public health strategy in favour of economic imperatives.
“I’m not saying anything is perfect, and yes, will some people be affected? Yes. Will some people be affected badly? Yes,” Trump said during a trip to Arizona – a battleground state in the 2020 presidential election – on Tuesday. “But we have to get our country open, and we have to get it open soon.”
In an interview with David Muir of ABC News on Tuesday evening, Trump was asked directly: “Do you believe it’s the reality we’re facing, that lives will be lost to reopen the country?”
The president said: “It’s possible there will be some because you won’t be locked into an apartment or a house or whatever it is, but at the same time we’re going to practise social distancing, we’re going to be washing hands, we’re going to be doing a lot of the things that we’ve learned to do over the last period of time. And we have to get our country back.”
A prolonged shutdown, Trump added, came with its own costs in terms of increased drug use and suicide.
Hillary Clinton, a former secretary of state and 2016 presidential candidate, tweeted: “It appears the plan is, shamefully, to have no plan. Americans will suffer. We must replace this administration in November.”
David Axelrod, former chief strategist for Barack Obama, added on Twitter: “If you can’t shut down the virus, shut down the taskforce.”
Pence was responding on Tuesday to questions about a New York Times report that said officials in the Trump administration were telling the 22 taskforce members and their staff to expect the group to be phased out within weeks.
The coronavirus task force has spearheaded the complex response to the fast-spreading virus, which has already killed about 70,000 Americans.
The group headed by Pence and reporting to President Donald Trump coordinates between medical institutes, political staff and state governors, some of whom have spent weeks frantically trying to help overwhelmed hospitals.
The task force also drew on medical experts to formulate national recommendations on social distancing.
Pence said that those efforts will soon be ready to be turned over to regular government agencies working “in a more traditional manner.”
That view of the situation no longer being an outright emergency goes with Trump’s new focus on pushing the country to embrace reopening of the economy.
Trump says that while he wants a “safe” reopening, the hardship caused by the economic shutdown is the main threat.