White House Coronavirus Task Force

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Then-U.S. president Donald Trump and members of the White House Coronavirus Task Force brief the media on March 16, 2020. White House Press Briefing (49668784683).jpg
Then-U.S. president Donald Trump and members of the White House Coronavirus Task Force brief the media on March 16, 2020.

The White House Coronavirus Task Force was the United States Department of State task force during the Trump administration that "coordinate[d] and overs[aw] the administration's efforts to monitor, prevent, contain, and mitigate the spread" of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). [1] Also referred to as the President's Coronavirus Task Force, it was established on January 29, 2020, with Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar as chair. [2] On February 26, 2020, U.S. vice president Mike Pence was named to chair the task force, and Deborah Birx was named the response coordinator. [3]

Contents

The task force was succeeded by the White House COVID-19 Response Team under the Biden administration.

Background

The first known case in the United States of COVID-19 was confirmed in the state of Washington on January 20, 2020, in a 35-year-old man who had returned from Wuhan, China on January 15. [4] The White House Coronavirus Task Force was established on January 29, with Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar as its chair. [2] On January 30, the WHO declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern and on January 31, the Trump administration declared a public health emergency, [5] and placed travel restrictions on entry by non-citizens who had recently been in China. [6] On February 26, U.S. vice president Mike Pence replaced Azar as chair. [3]

Members

MemberRoleAppointment
Mike Pence official Vice Presidential portrait.jpg Mike Pence Vice President of the United States
Chair of White House Coronavirus Task Force
February 26, 2020 [3]
Deborah Birx in April 2020 face detail, from- White House Coronavirus Update Briefing (49742678236) (cropped).jpg Deborah Birx United States Global AIDS Coordinator
White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator
February 26, 2020 [3]
Jerome Adams 2019.jpg Vice Admiral
Jerome Adams
Surgeon General of the United States February 26, 2020 [3]
Alex Azar official portrait 2.jpg Alex Azar United States Secretary of Health and Human Services January 29, 2020 [2]
Stephen E. Biegun official photo.jpg Stephen Biegun United States Deputy Secretary of State January 29, 2020 [2]
Robert Blair (government official).jpg Robert Blair Senior Advisor to the White House Chief of Staff January 29, 2020 [2]
Ben Carson official portrait.jpg Ben Carson United States Secretary of Housing and Urban Development March 1, 2020 [7]
Francis Collins official photo.jpg Francis Collins Director of the National Institutes of Health May 15, 2020 [8]
Ken Cuccinelli official photo.jpg Ken Cuccinelli Acting United States Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security January 29, 2020 [2]
Kelvin Droegemeier official photo.jpg Kelvin Droegemeier Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy March 1, 2020 [7]
Thomas J. Engels official photographs of Administrator Health Resources and Services Administration.jpg Thomas J. Engels Administrator of the Health Resources and Services Administration May 15, 2020 [8]
Anthony Fauci 2020.jpg Anthony Fauci Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases January 29, 2020 [2]
ADM Brett P. Giroir, USPHS.jpg Admiral
Brett Giroir
Assistant Secretary for Health March 13, 2020 [9] [10]
Joe Grogan.jpg Joe Grogan Director of the Domestic Policy Council January 29, 2020 [2]
Stephen Hahn MD.jpg Stephen Hahn Commissioner of Food and Drugs March 1, 2020 [7]
Derek Kan official photo.jpg Derek Kan Executive Associate Director of the Office of Management and Budget January 29, 2020 [2]
Larry Kudlow (25484250682) (cropped).jpg Larry Kudlow Director of the National Economic Council February 26, 2020 [3]
Chris Liddell official photo.jpg Chris Liddell White House Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy CoordinationJanuary 29, 2020 [2]
Peter Marks (25013836769).jpg Peter Marks Director of the Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research May 15, 2020 [8]
Steven Mnuchin official portrait.jpg Steven Mnuchin United States Secretary of the Treasury February 26, 2020 [3]
Robert C. O'Brien.jpg Robert C. O'Brien National Security Advisor January 29, 2020 [2]
Secretary Sonny Perdue official photo.jpg Sonny Perdue United States Secretary of Agriculture May 15, 2020 [8]
Matthew Pottinger (USMC-110915-M-AR635-508 cropped).png Matthew Pottinger Deputy National Security Advisor January 29, 2020 [2]
Resigned January 2021 [11]
Robert R. Redfield.jpg Robert R. Redfield Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention January 29, 2020 [2]
Eugene Scalia.jpg Eugene Scalia United States Secretary of Labor May 15, 2020 [8]
Joel Szabat.jpg Joel Szabat Acting Under Secretary of Transportation for Policy January 29, 2020 [2]
Seema Verma official photo.jpg Seema Verma Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services March 2, 2020 [12]
Robert Wilkie official portrait.jpg Robert Wilkie United States Secretary of Veterans Affairs March 2, 2020 [12]

Actions

Vice president Mike Pence during the April 2020 meeting of the White House Coronavirus Task Force White House Coronavirus Task Force Meeting (49750489317).jpg
Vice president Mike Pence during the April 2020 meeting of the White House Coronavirus Task Force

The task force reviewed all coronavirus-related actions by federal agencies, and overruled the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) several times. [13] [14] The New York Times reported that the CDC's leadership has been criticized during the pandemic, for mismanaging the testing kit rollout and changing its guidance on transmission of the virus; the White House says it is following the science in overruling the CDC. [14] In March 2020, the task force deployed a team to cope with test kit shortages across the country, overseen by Brett Giroir, recognizing that the shortages were a serious threat to the country. [15]

Pete Gaynor, the administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) was involved [16] and stated that the task force had directed FEMA to shift in March "from playing a supporting role in assisting the U.S Department of Health and Human Services, which was designated as the initial lead federal agency for the COVID-19 pandemic response, to coordinating the Whole-of Government response to the COVID-19 pandemic". [17]

Peter Navarro was named in March the Defense Production Act policy coordinator for the federal government. [18] The Defense Production Act gives the President broad powers to control manufacturing during emergencies. [19] Navarro criticized the CDC for the testing problems, [20] and has also criticized Fauci; [19] critics like Chuck Schumer say Navarro is unqualified for the job. [19]

Operation Warp Speed was initiated in early April to facilitate and accelerate the development, manufacturing, and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics [21] [22] [23] after a round-table meeting with Trump, Pence and industry executives at the White House on March 2. [24]

On September 29, the task force overruled the CDC's recommendation regarding when passenger cruise ships should be allowed to resume sailing. The CDC wanted to extend the existing "no-sail" directive until February 2021, but the task force agreed with the cruise ship industry's recommendation that the prohibition end on October 31, 2020. [14] Two unnamed federal health officials told The New York Times that on October 9 the task force rejected a proposed CDC order requiring passengers and employees to wear masks on all forms of public and commercial transportation in the United States, including airplanes, trains, buses, subways, and transit hubs. A federal mask mandate was supported by some airlines and the transportation worker unions; the task force said that such orders should be left up to states and local governments. [13]

Press briefings

On March 10, 2020, The Hill reported that U.S. Senate Republicans who had attended a briefing with President Donald Trump had encouraged him to hold more briefings and to make Anthony Fauci the "face of the federal government's response" because according to an unnamed senator, "he has credibility", he "speaks with authority" and he "has respect in the medical community". [25] The role of Health and Human Services secretary Alex Azar was downsized, according to the Wall Street Journal , with Pence taking a larger role. [26]

The Task Force livestreamed press briefings at whitehouse.gov to communicate updates, guidelines, and policy changes to the public during the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States. [27] [28] [29] On March 16, the White House began holding the task force press briefings daily, [30] but by late April the White House discussed reducing the frequency of these briefings. On April 25, there was no press briefing, and at that time no further press briefings had been scheduled. [31] [32] On May 5, Pence said that the administration was discussing "what the proper time is for the task force to complete its work"; the next day, Trump said that the task force would "continue on indefinitely" but would refocus on returning the nation to normal activity. [33]

As the US entered a new phase of re-opening businesses and getting back to work, Pence named five new members to the task force on May 15, 2020. [8] The task force gave a press briefing on May 15, and on May 22, [34] Birx appeared with press secretary Kayleigh McEnany. For the rest of May and into June, the task force met once or twice weekly, behind closed doors, as the White House switched to an economic message. [35] The task force gave another press briefing on July 8. [36] Fauci said on July 10 that he had not given a briefing to Trump for two months, and had not seen him in person since June 2. [37]

See also

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