The White House will begin to shut down its coronavirus task force, president Donald Trump confirmed last night, as the country begins to reopen from stringent lockdown measures.
Speaking during a visit to a mask factory in Arizona, the president said that responsibility for co-ordinating the US’ response would shift to federal agencies.
He praised the work of vice president Mike Pence, who has been running the taskforce, but said that “we can’t keep our country closed for five years”:
“Mike Pence and the task force have done a great job. But we’re now looking at a little bit of a different form and that form is safety and opening and we’ll have a different group probably set up for that.”
The US has the highest coronavirus death toll of any nation, with over 70,000 deaths so far.
More than 1.2m people are confirmed to have contracted the disease in the country, according to Johns Hopkins University data.
Trump’s comments come after Pence had told reporters that the president was looking to shift management of the pandemic around Memorial Day on 25 May.
Two of the taskforce’s leading figures, Anthony Fauci and Deborah Birx, will continue to advise the country when the group is disbanded, the president confirmed.
Attention in the US has begun to shift to reopening the economy, with states such as Texas, Iowa, and Tennessee having already started some business activity.
However, such states are reported a rise in new cases having done so, with Birx saying particular attention was being paid to a new outbreak in Iowa state capital Des Moines.
The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation now estimates that Covid-19 will account for 135,000 American deaths by 4 August, more than doubles its forecast on 17 April.
The president admitted there could be a resurgence of the virus as states loosen restrictions on businesses and social life, saying:
“It’ll be a flame and we’re going to put the flame out.”