WASHINGTON — A day after President Donald Trump confirmed that he planned to wind down the White House coronavirus task force, the president announced Wednesday that it will now continue indefinitely.
In a series of tweets, Trump said the task force, led by Vice President Mike Pence, has done a “fantastic job of bringing together vast highly complex resources that have set a high standard for others to follow in the future.”
Trump said that ventilators are now being produced in the thousands, repeated the false claim that the U.S. is doing more testing than all other countries combined and said face masks and shields are “plentiful.”
“The last four Governors teleconference calls have been conclusively strong. Because of this success, the Task Force will continue on indefinitely with its focus on SAFETY & OPENING UP OUR COUNTRY AGAIN. We may add or subtract people,” the president tweeted.
Trump said later Wednesday that the task force will also be “very focused” on the development of a coronavirus vaccine and treatments and he would be announcing "two or three new members to the task force" as soon as Monday.
The president's apparent change of plans comes a day after he told reporters during a visit to a mask factory in Phoenix that he would wind down the task force.
“I think that, as far as the task force, Mike Pence and the task force have done a great job,” Trump said on Tuesday. "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."
But he reversed course on Wednesday, telling reporters at the White House that "I thought we could wind it down sooner. But I had no idea how popular the task force is until actually yesterday when I started talking about winding it down."
"It’s very respected. People said we should keep it going, so let’s keep it going," Trump added.
The task force meetings in the White House Situation Room have been shorter, and the group no longer meets every day, two people told NBC News on Tuesday.
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Pence told NBC News on Tuesday that there was no set date for the task force to formally complete its work but that the panel expects to begin to shift its centralized response back to individual federal agencies in late May or early June. Pence said the group had already discussed such a transition plan with the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
For a while, the task force had been holding televised press briefings at the White House nearly every day until the president suggested during one briefing in late April that people could possibly inject themselves with disinfectant to beat the coronavirus, prompting widespread criticism and warnings from companies and government agencies not to take disinfectant internally.
Trump’s announcement to keep the task force going comes as more than 70,000 people in the U.S. have died from COVID-19, and there have been more than 1.2 million reported cases across the country.