President Donald Trump is planning to launch a second coronavirus task force that focuses on the economic devastation caused by the pandemic, NBC News reported Thursday, citing a senior administration official.
The second task force will include Trump's new chief of staff, Mark Meadows, along with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow, NBC reported.
Trump could announce the task force as soon as this week. The Washington Post first reported on the task force.
The news comes a day after former Vice President Joe Biden became the apparent Democratic nominee to take on Trump this November, after Sen. Bernie Sanders dropped out of the race. Trump's core argument for his reelection has been the country's economic success and growth under his watch, which has been undermined by the sudden, devastating impact of the coronavirus outbreak on American businesses and workers.
White House spokesman Judd Deere told CNBC in a statement that "President Trump's policies took this economy to record setting historic highs for all Americans but this unforeseen, unprecedented crisis has hurt many workers and businesses."
"The President wants to see this economy open again so people can get back to work, but scientific data will drive the timeline on those decisions because his number one priority is to protect the safety and well-being of the American people," Deere said.
The new White House group would be formed alongside the existing COVID-19 task force, which is led by Vice President Mike Pence and includes health experts such as National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Dr. Anthony Fauci and response coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx.
Trump has attended that group's daily briefings at the White House, using them as general press conferences and de facto campaign rallies, as well as updates about his administration's progress in combating the spread of the virus.
The new task force is not expected to meet every day, NBC reported.
It was unclear when or where the idea of an economic task force first took root. Trump first signaled his openness to the plan on Saturday, when he responded to a tweet from Fox News host Dana Perino advocating for a "2nd task force assembled at direction of POTUS to look ahead to reopening of the economy."
"Good idea Dana!" the president tweeted.
The coronavirus outbreak, which began near the city of Wuhan in China's Hubei province, has rapidly spread across the globe, infecting at least 1.5 million people and killing at least 89,733, according to data from Johns Hopkins University as of Thursday morning.
Government leaders in the U.S. and around the world have scrambled to slow the pandemic by imposing harsh containment measures, such as ordering residents to stay home and forcing nonessential businesses to close.
Those moves have hobbled entire industries — especially the retail, transportation and tourism industries — prompting massive spikes in unemployment and an unprecedented market rout. The United States has lost 10% of its workforce in just three weeks, according to Labor Department data released Thursday morning.
While medical experts like Fauci have stressed the importance of keeping up the containment measures, Trump and other officials have expressed impatience with the social distancing policies that have led the previously strong U.S. economy to crumple so quickly.
Earlier this week, conservative economist Stephen Moore gave CNBC further details on a commission or task force he said was being envisioned by the White House, focused on reopening the economy.
"The idea here would be a commission that would have to report back to the president, I think, in no longer than three weeks," Moore said Monday, adding that he speaks with top administration officials almost daily.
"The idea would be getting leading authorities, world renowned business people, economists, experts to come up with ideas about steps that could be taken to reopen the economy."
Moore added, "I think what's being envisioned is a totally independent group that wouldn't be funded and organized like a presidential commission, but instead would be more informal, and able to work more quickly and efficiently."
Moore suggested that conservative economist Art Laffer, who recently received a Presidential Medal of Freedom from Trump, be tapped to lead the commission.
But in recent days, Meadows has emerged as a more likely candidate to lead the task force, though NBC reports that no final decision has been made.