Early on Wednesday, reports held that the White House planned to wind down its COVID-19 task force by early June. However, a series of tweets from the president by mid-morning clarified that this was not the case. Trump asserted in the online messages that the task force would continue its work “indefinitely,” or at least until a vaccine for the disease is available.
President Donald Trump has focused primarily on efforts to reopen the economy. The president also stated that the task force will focus on the creation of a vaccine for COVID-19. In his Wednesday morning tweets, the president noted the task force’s success in sourcing ventilators and testing equipment, though he did not cite any hard numbers.
“Because of this success, the Task Force will continue on indefinitely with its focus on SAFETY & OPENING UP OUR COUNTRY AGAIN,” Trump continued. Near the end of April, the task force laid out a multi-tiered plan for reopening parts of the country. The plan involved criteria states would need to meet before safely reopening.
The task force, which is headed by Vice President Mike Pence, could see personnel lineup changes in the coming months. Trump signaled as much Wednesday, tweeting out, “We may add or subtract people to it, as appropriate. The Task Force will also be very focused on Vaccines & Therapeutics. Thank you!”
The focus on vaccines is also underscored by the White House’s “Project Warp Speed” initiative. This program is aimed at having a vaccine ready by the beginning of 2021, a record turnaround time for a vaccine. While the program started with over 90 potential vaccine candidates, that number has fallen to 14.
More than half of the country has begun some form of rolling back restrictions. This has largely been against the warnings of medical experts. However, the economic realities facing many states could have motivated these decisions. While vast swaths of the economy are closed, states draw in far less tax revenue. Unlike the federal government, states can’t spend on a deficit.
This means that, while revenue falls, state treasuries are being emptied out as part of their virus response. Without federal aid, this could quickly result in states simply having no money for their programs. As such, even if medical experts aren’t convinced states are ready, many have begun the process of reopening.
While experimental treatments like the drug remdesivir are being considered for COVID-19, it’s unclear how quickly treatment or a vaccine for the disease will be available. Only time will tell how long before the pandemic is declared under control.