President Donald Trump’s coronavirus task force hasn’t been seen in the White House briefing room in weeks. On Friday, Trump’s press secretary made its shelving official.
Kayleigh McEnany said Friday that the task force will no longer brief the public, now that the U.S. is pressing ahead with reopening its economy. McEnany said that she will relay any further information about the coronavirus outbreak, instead.
“Those happened in the very early days of Covid-19 and the pandemic, we were making major decisions,” she said of the briefings that featured the nation’s top infectious disease expert, Anthony Fauci, and task force coordinator and epidemiologist Deborah Birx. “Now we’re in a more regular routine.”
The U.S. reported nearly 26,000 new infections by the virus on Friday and more than 700 deaths. More than 2.2 million Americans have contracted Covid-19 since February and at least 119,000 have died.
The task force still is regularly reviewing data and speaking with governors’ offices, McEnany said.
“We don’t have regular updates for you other than the updates I give you, as news merits, and I’m regularly in consultation with Dr. Birx and the others,” McEnany said.
The task force’s profile has diminished since McEnany’s arrival at the White House in May, and as Trump presses to reopen the economy. Fauci, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, hasn’t spoken publicly at the White House in more than seven weeks.
The White House continues to downplay the virus. Trump will resume his campaign rally schedule Saturday in Tulsa, Oklahoma, even as the state has experienced one of the country’s sharpest increases in new cases this week. Trump claimed this week the virus will “fade away” even without a vaccine.
His campaign will hand out hand sanitizer and face masks to rally attendees, but won’t require them to be worn. Trump hasn’t ever worn one publicly and McEnany said Friday she wouldn’t wear a mask in Oklahoma because she’s tested regularly for the disease and doesn’t think she presents a risk of infection to others.
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