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White House weighs ending its coronavirus task force

Critics call the move premature

Vice President Mike Pence confirmed Tuesday that discussions have begun on how to wind down the coronavirus task force that coordinates the Trump administration’s response to the global pandemic.

“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,” said Pence, who leads the task force. “And we’ve already begun to talk about a transition plan with FEMA.”

Pence, who was being asked to respond to a New York Times report, argued this was a positive development, and “a reflection of the tremendous progress we’ve made as a country.”

The vice president was speaking to reporters at a briefing with the task force that did not include the traditional press pool. CQ Roll Call received a transcript from the vice president’s office.

“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 announcement comes as federal social distancing guidelines expired last week and several states have begun lifting restrictions to begin reopening parts of the economy.

[US, China absent from international vaccine effort]

Experts predict that the number of cases will rise as the restrictions are lifted and people return to a more normal way of life. The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington predicted on Monday that the U.S. would see 134,475 deaths by Aug. 4.

Leana Wen, the former Baltimore health commissioner and a visiting professor at the George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health, criticized Pence’s announcement on Twitter as premature. “We still have a pandemic, with record numbers of Americans dying, and infections and deaths escalating by the day,” she said.

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