WASHINGTON

US President Donald Trump said Wednesday the White House coronavirus task force will continue its work “indefinitely,” breaking with prior remarks from Vice President Mike Pence.

The vice president signaled Tuesday the Trump administration is considering winding down the group’s work in late May or early June, claiming the move is “a reflection of the tremendous progress we’ve made as a country.”

But Trump said the task force would continue and will shift focus to enhancing safety and overseeing efforts to reopen the American economy.

“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,” Trump said on Twitter. “We may add or subtract people to it, as appropriate. The Task Force will also be very focused on Vaccines & Therapeutics.”

Trump stood up the task force at the end of January as the US was bracing for the pandemic to hit American shores. The earliest-detected COVID-19 deaths have been retroactively found about a week after Trump took the action, with a county in California saying its first-known virus death was a 57-year-old woman who later died Feb. 6.

At least 71,463 people in the US have lost their lives to COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the virus, according to data being compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

The true death toll is likely higher, however, as jurisdictions continue to test bodies of the deceased for the virus, as was the case in Santa Clara whose discovery reset the record for the earliest-known death by weeks.

Many states are beginning the process of reopening, but while the virus has been waning in its original US epicenter of New York City, it has been growing in other areas the country, and fears have mounted that the reopening long-sought by Trump could lead to a resurgence.

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