Trump has 'sidelined' the coronavirus task force — abdicating responsibility for the staggering death toll

Trump has 'sidelined' the coronavirus task force — abdicating responsibility for the staggering death toll
President Donald J. Trump, joined by Vice President Mike Pence, takes questions from reporters during a Coronavirus Task Force update Saturday, Feb. 29, 2020, in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House. (Official White House Photo D. Myles Cullen)

The deaths of more than 100,000 Americans from coronavirus this week have not been marked officially by the White House. The White House coronavirus task force headed up by Vice President Mike Pence hasn't even issued a statement, much less conducted a briefing. But more disturbing, it has had just one meeting in a week, CNN reports. Because it's all about reopening now and apparently having the task force continue to operate publicly would undercut the big orange blob of rage's declaration of victory over the virus. He's moved on to other things, and the task force is now just meeting once a week.

It has "essentially been sidelined by Trump, said senior administration officials and others close to the group, who described a greatly reduced role for the panel created to guide the administration's response to the pandemic." Meanwhile, Trump is creating diversions, including his war with Twitter which he ramped up Friday with a violently racist statement about the situation in Minneapolis following the murder by cops of George Floyd. Forget the mounting, outrageous, unacceptable death toll for which Trump is personally responsible, and look over there at the other fire he's started.

Meanwhile, the country is reopening and new hot spots of infection are emerging and the medical and science officials in the White House are disappearing, along with it the messages about the importance of social distancing, mask-wearing, and hand-washing to ward off the virus. Drs. Deborah Birx, Anthony Fauci and Surgeon General Jerome Adams rarely appear on camera anymore, while Trump continues to undercut all their warnings about how to stay safe. Like tweeting out an article that said "masks aren't about public health but social control" with the message "So many different viewpoints!"

That leaves uncertainty for what is almost certain to come. For example, Project Airbridge which has focused on securing personal protective gear for health care workers overseas and bringing it in on government-funded private flights is expected to wind down with the end of the month. Health care workers say that the shortages of personal protective equipment continued in May, and continues to be an issue for medical and dental practices trying to resume their practices.

Of particular concern, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has been almost entirely sidelined. One official told CNN that "the White House and the Department of Health and Human Services made the CDC halt [daily briefings] earlier in the year, when some CDC officials offered dire warnings that angered the President." According to that official, the CDC and Director Dr. Robert Redfield have made "multiple efforts" to bring back the daily briefings, but they've "given up asking." The director "has tried on and off for awhile," the official said. "I'm not aware of any imminent plans for the CDC briefings to return."

Early in May, Trump said he was going to disband the task force altogether, but supposedly abandoned that plan. "I had no idea how popular the task force is until actually yesterday when I started talking about winding down. It is appreciated by the public," he said a few weeks ago. Instead of directly killing it, he's just forcing it to dwindle away. Whether he's carrying out his big genius brain plan to have the State Department take over the pandemic response is unclear. It seems likelier that he's just ending the federal government's response so that he can blame the states for the next 100,000 deaths.


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