- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Vice President Mike Pence on Tuesday said the White House is looking to wind down its coronavirus task force by Memorial Day or early June so that federal agencies can manage the response in a “more traditional manner.”

“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. And we’ve already begun to talk about a transition plan with FEMA,” Mr. Pence told reporters, referring to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Talk of unwinding the task force will be viewed as a gamble, since the U.S. is still seeing a persistent caseload despite over a month of state-by-state shutdown orders and President Trump’s advice to avoid crowds and work and learn at home.

Mr. Trump stood up his coronavirus task force in January to prepare for the coronavirus, which at the time was battering China and seen as a potential — though not guaranteed — threat to America.

As the situation worsened, the president in late February put Mr. Pence in charge of the task force over Health Secretary Alex Azar and appointed Deborah Birx, an HIV/AIDS ambassador at the State Department, to be the coronavirus response coordinator.

Dr. Birx and Dr. Anthony Fauci, a top scientist at the National Institutes of Health, became the public-health faces of the response at near-daily White House briefings while the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention toiled behind the scenes.

Mr. Pence said discussions about disbanding the task force are a reflection of “tremendous progress we’ve made as a country.”

“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,” he said. “And by late May and early June … that probably represents the timetable for our agencies” to take over.
Mr. Pence said the White House will keep Dr. Birx around “every bit as long as we need to.”

Dr. Birx said her team is still tracking the virus, which has infected nearly 1.2 million people in America and killed over 70,000.

“We’ll still keep a close eye on the data because we have very good data now” Dr. Birx said. “It took us a while to build that capacity. And we’ll make sure that, you know, we’re watching that at a federal level.”

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