White House Coronavirus Task Force

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]

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

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

BackgroundEdit

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]

MembersEdit

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

ActionsEdit

 
A 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 briefingsEdit

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 alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ "Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-2019)". U.S. Department of State. March 13, 2020. Archived from the original on March 8, 2020. Retrieved March 15, 2020.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n "Statement from the Press Secretary Regarding the President's Coronavirus Task Force". whitehouse.gov (Press release). January 29, 2020. Archived from the original on January 20, 2021. Retrieved March 15, 2020 – via National Archives.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Santucci J (February 27, 2020). "What we know about the White House coronavirus task force now that Mike Pence is in charge". USA Today. Archived from the original on February 29, 2020. Retrieved March 15, 2020.
  4. ^ Holshue ML, DeBolt C, Lindquist S, Lofy KH, et al. (March 2020). "First Case of 2019 Novel Coronavirus in the United States". N. Engl. J. Med. 382 (10): 929–936. doi:10.1056/NEJMoa2001191. PMC 7092802. PMID 32004427.
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  6. ^ "Proclamation on Suspension of Entry as Immigrants and Nonimmigrants of Persons who Pose a Risk of Transmitting 2019 Novel Coronavirus". whitehouse.gov. Archived from the original on January 20, 2021. Retrieved March 22, 2020 – via National Archives.
  7. ^ a b c "Vice President Pence and Secretary Azar Add Key Administration Officials to the Coronavirus Task Force". whitehouse.gov (Press release). March 1, 2020. Archived from the original on January 20, 2021. Retrieved March 16, 2020 – via National Archives.
  8. ^ a b c d e f "New Members of the White House Coronavirus Task Force Announced". whitehouse.gov (Press release). May 15, 2020. Archived from the original on January 20, 2021. Retrieved May 15, 2020 – via National Archives.
  9. ^ Sherman J, Morello L (March 13, 2020). "Trump administration rolls out new coronavirus push, names HHS testing czar". POLITICO. Archived from the original on November 25, 2020. Retrieved January 13, 2021.
  10. ^ Kaplan J (December 4, 2020). "'We're in a very dangerous situation:' Q&A with White House Coronavirus Task Force member and 'Testing Czar'". ABC11 Raleigh-Durham. Archived from the original on December 13, 2020. Retrieved January 13, 2021.
  11. ^ Pitofsky M (January 7, 2021). "National security aides join exodus of Trump staffers". The Hill. Archived from the original on January 15, 2021. Retrieved January 13, 2021.
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  18. ^ "Remarks by President Trump, Vice President Pence, and Members of the Coronavirus Task Force in Press Briefing". whitehouse.gov (Press release). March 28, 2020. Archived from the original on January 20, 2021. Retrieved October 10, 2020 – via National Archives.
  19. ^ a b c Smith A (August 3, 2020). "Combative and supremely loyal, Peter Navarro has emerged as one of Trump's most powerful aides". NBC News. Archived from the original on October 21, 2020. Retrieved October 10, 2020.
  20. ^ Hagen L (May 17, 2020). "White House adviser blames CDC for Coronavirus testing problems". U.S. News & World Report. Archived from the original on November 13, 2020. Retrieved October 10, 2020.
  21. ^ Jacobs J, Armstrong D (April 29, 2020). "Trump's 'Operation Warp Speed' aims to rush coronavirus vaccine". Bloomberg News. Archived from the original on December 17, 2020. Retrieved May 15, 2020.
  22. ^ Cohen J (May 12, 2020). "Unveiling 'Warp Speed,' the White House's America-first push for a coronavirus vaccine". Science. doi:10.1126/science.abc7056. S2CID 219432336. Archived from the original on November 29, 2020. Retrieved October 11, 2020.
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  25. ^ Bolton A (March 10, 2020). "GOP senators tell Trump to make Fauci face of government's coronavirus response". The Hill. Archived from the original on March 17, 2020. Retrieved March 15, 2020.
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  37. ^ Kuchler H (July 10, 2020). "Anthony Fauci: 'We are living in the perfect storm'". Financial Times. Archived from the original on July 13, 2020. Retrieved July 13, 2020.

External linksEdit