Despite over 71,000 deaths and 12 lakh positive coronavirus cases in the country, the Donald Trump administration is mulling winding down the White House Task Force on Covid-19 and delegating its responsibilities in a phased manner to the relevant federal agencies. There has, however, been a sharp decline in the number of new cases and deaths in the US in the last one week, as per Johns Hopkins University, which perhaps prompted Trump to say that the country has been able to flatten the curve. And with this decline, quite a few states have started to open up.
In a statement to a select group of reporters, US Vice President Mike Pence, who leads the task force, was quoted as saying by PTI, “I think we are 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 said the White House has already begun to talk about a transition plan with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). This news was previously reported by The New York Times.
President Donald Trump also confirmed the news in Arizona while on a visit to a mask factory, where he declined to wear a mask, something he’s been reluctant to do since the outbreak began.
In a statement to the media, Trump said, “I think we are looking at phase two and we are looking at other phases,” adding that the country is starting to open up and noting that the task force has done “a phenomenal job”.
While describing the need to focus on safeguarding lives and the economy, Trump was quoted as saying by PTI, “We will have something in a different form.” Asked why is now the time to wind down the task force if there could be a recurrence, he said, “Because we cannot close our country down for the next five years. The administration has learned a lot.”
Speaking to reporters at the White House, Pence added, “It really is all a reflection of the tremendous progress we have made as a country. The president stood up the White House Coronavirus Task Force in January to marshal a national response.”
Dr Deborah Birx, a member of the task force, said the White House will “continue to review and analyse data and work with the departments in agencies to help that data inform their decision-making processes”.
Meanwhile, an Associated Press analysis has found that the rest of the US, leaving aside New York metropolitan area’s progress against the coronavirus, is moving in the wrong direction, with the known infection rate rising even as states move to lift their lockdowns.
According to figures from Johns Hopkins University, the new confirmed cases per day in the US exceed 20,000, and deaths per day are well over 1,000. Public health officials have warned that the failure to flatten the curve and drive down the infection rate in places could lead to many more deaths as people are allowed to venture out and businesses reopen.
(With inputs from PTI, AP)