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70,000 deaths, now White House plans to dismantle task force

The White House is having preliminary talks about when to wind down its coronavirus task force and may start moving coordination of the US response on to federal agencies in late May, Vice President Mike Pence says.

May 06, 2020, updated May 06, 2020
US President Donald Trump has attempted to stoke fears about crime-ridden cities. (Photo: EPA/DOUG MILLS / POOL)

US President Donald Trump has attempted to stoke fears about crime-ridden cities. (Photo: EPA/DOUG MILLS / POOL)

Speaking to reporters in his office on Tuesday with members of the task force, Pence said President Donald Trump was starting to look at Memorial Day on May 25 as the time to shift management of the response to the pandemic, which has killed more than 70,000 Americans so far.

Trump placed Pence in charge of the task force, which has been meeting almost every day since it was formed in March.

Conversations are taking place 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, confirming a New York Times report.

“We’ve already begun to talk about a transition plan with FEMA,” he said, referring to the Federal Emergency Management Agency that has played a lead role in distributing urgently needed supplies across the country.

The US death toll from COVID-19, the disease caused by the highly contagious virus, is the highest in the world.

Democratic politicians and some Republicans have criticised Trump for playing down the threat and now encouraging states to start to re-open economies that were shut down to try to curb the virus’s spread.

Deborah Birx, the coronavirus task response coordinator, said the team would “keep a close eye on the data.” Birx said the group was looking at outbreaks in Chicago and Des Moines, Iowa, as points of concern.

The focus is now on therapeutics, vaccines and addressing infection hotspots, the task force members said.

-AAP

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