A federal task force fighting the spread of the coronavirus around the world will disband on Wednesday amid efforts by the Trump administration to treat the Covid-19 pandemic as an event that is firmly in the past.
The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) announced Tuesday it will discontinue its coronavirus pandemic task force, shifting responsibilities back to bureaus and offices within the agency.
USAID will establish a "Readiness Unit" after the task force is deactivated,Politico reported, but the unit is "not a substitute" for the coordinated work done by the task force over the past six months, according to the outlet's foreign affairs reporter, Nahal Toosi.
I’ve UPDATED this story with comments from a USAID spokesperson. Confirms basics, but adds USAID is setting up a “readiness unit” to help bureaus, etc., as they take over task force functions. The readiness unit is NOT a substitute for the task force, but it’s worth noting. https://t.co/MhjbbDbs9X
— Nahal Toosi (@nahaltoosi) September 8, 2020
The task force will disband as the worldwide death toll approaches 900,000 and the total confirmed cases surpasses 27.3 million.
Several developing countries have seen the pandemic grow more severe in recent weeks, including India, Honduras, and the Dominican Republic. Late last month, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) warned low-income countries could face a "lost decade" without help from wealthier countries, including guaranteed access to medical supplies and protection of medical supply chains.
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The task force has sent thousands of ventilators to countries including Colombia, South Africa, and India in recent months, as well as coordinated with local governments, NGOs, and other organizations to help communities in more than 120 countries combat the spread of the coronavirus. The agency has committed more than $1.6 billion to help improve public health education and increase local governments' ability to rapidly respond to outbreaks.
Politico reported that some at USAID believe the dismantling of the task force will lead to "greater dysfunction" as the agency tries to mitigate the global spread of Covid-19.
The Trump administration, looking ahead to the November general election, has made a concerted effort since the pandemic began to downplay the public health crisis. Last month at the Republican National Convention, administration leaders referred to the pandemic in the past tense.
Larry Kudlow, a top economic adviser to the president, told voters the pandemic "was awful" when it was going on but suggested several times that it was resolved, even as the U.S. reported about 1,000 deaths per day from Covid-19 and its complications during the convention.
Anti-choice convention speaker Cissie Graham Lynch and First Lady Melania Trump also suggested in their speeches that the pandemic had taken place in the past.
Ashley Moretz, director of rural healthcare at the Utah Department of Health, tweeted that shutting down USAID's task force "won't make Covid-19 go away."