Donald Trump reverses himself, will keep task-force ‘indefinitely’
President Donald Trump on Wednesday said he intends to continue the coronavirus task force “indefinitely”, reversing his earlier plans to wind it down. He will repurpose it, however, to focus on “safety and reopening” and “vaccines and therapeutics”.
Less than 12 hours ago, the president had told reporters at a mask-making factory in Arizona that the task force, which is spearheading the federal response to the outbreak, has done a good job thus far but he wants to replace it with “something different” for Phase Two, the reopening of the country.
The flip-flop was was seen as a reflection of the administration’s continued struggle to come to grips with the public health and economic crisis unleashed by the virus. New accounts have emerged through two whistleblower complaints revealed Tuesday how the administration botched the shortage of medical supplies and focussed on unproven treatments such as the antimalarial hydroxychloroquine.
The task-force has done a “fantastic job of bringing together vast highly complex resources”, the president said in a bunch of tweets Wednesday and it will continue “indefinitely with its focus on SAFETY & OPENING UP OUR COUNTRY AGAIN … and will also be very focused on Vaccines & Therapeutics”. He may “add or subtract people”.
This was in stark contrast of his intention as he conveyed to reporters Tuesday. The task force has “done a great job”, he said as he toured a mask-making factory in Arizona, adding, “but we’re now looking at a little bit of a different form, and that form is safety and ope. He indicated a “different group” could be set up for what he has said will be “Phase Two”.
“You could say there might be a recurrence, and there might be,” he replied to a question about the timing of his plans to disband the task force when experts were warning of recurrence and a surge in numbers. But he said the country will be better prepared for it because “we have learnt a lot about the coronavirus.”
But he reassured reporters he will continue to consult with the doctors and experts of the task-force, such as Deborah Birx, the coordinator, and Anthony Fauci, the top epidemiologist who has not hesitated to disagree with the president publicly on everything from treatments and reopening.
The American president is in a hurry to reopen the country and seek to reverse the economic downturn unleashed by the virus, with over 30 million jobless, with an eye on his re-election prospects. He has dismissed warnings of resurgences caused by hurried and premature opening.
A public model widely cited by the White House and regarded by the broader public health community has projected deaths could double to more than134,000 by August because of the easing of restrictions underway in many states — 42 at last count — from the current toll of over over 71,000.
“They want to proclaim it over,” New York Andrew Cuomo said on CNN Tuesday about the president’s plans for the task force.“They have been looking to proclaim it over from day one right?…That is clear. But the virus doesn’t care…doesn’t listen. This is not a marketing situation”
Accounts of the Trump administration’s mishandling of the federal response to the outbreak have continued to pile up, in the meantime. New allegations are about the administration’s focus on questionable treatments for Covid-19 such as the se of antimalarial hydroxychloroquine and on the botched response to the shortage of essential supplies such as protective gears and ventilators.
Rick Bright, a senior official in the department of health and human services, has alleged in a whistleblower complaint, his warnings about the outbreak made as early as January had been ignored. And once it had hit the US with full force, he was alarmed about the pressure brought on by senior officials to “invest in drugs, vaccines, and other technologies without proper scientific vetting or that lacked scientific merit”.
He went on to allege he was so alarmed that he shared with a reporter nonclassified emails between government official about hydroxychloroquine in which they had “discussed the drug’s potential toxicity and demonstrated the political pressure to rush these drugs from Pakistan and India to American households”. Bright claimed he was transferred out shortly after the publication of a news article about the drug.
Another whistleblower complaint, also reported Tuesday, details how a group of young, inexperienced volunteers from business consultancy firms and private equity funds pulled together by Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior advisor, had grossly mismanaged the acquisition of essential supplies such as masks and ventilators, further complicating shortages in the initial weeks of the epidemic in the united States. They had also prioritized the distribution of supplies to serve people who knew the president or claimed to be close to him.