Coronavirus government response updates: WH cancels Monday’s briefing, Birx says social distancing could last through summer

By LIBBY CATHEY, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) — Despite it appearing on the president’s official schedule, the White House has now cancelled Monday’s coronavirus task force briefing after President Donald Trump faced backlash for floating the idea of injecting disinfectant to treat COVID-19 — which he later called “sarcasm.”

The White House instead said Trump would appear before cameras at a 4 p.m. event with retail CEOs, and that there would be a “new look” to the daily White House briefings, shifting focus to the economy.

Trump laid the groundwork for pulling back over the weekend, when he did not hold any briefings, tweeting they were “not worth the time and effort” because of “hostile” media questions.

As businesses in at least 13 states begin reopening their doors again this week, after a record-shattering 26 million people have filed for unemployment in the last month, the American people also enter a new week grappling with mixed signals on whether it’s safe to return to normal life.

While Vice President Mike Pence said at the last White House briefing on Friday that the U.S. could have “this coronavirus epidemic behind us” by “Memorial Day weekend,” coronavirus response coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx said Sunday that “social distancing will be with us through the summer.”

Here are the latest developments in the government response:

Press secretary teases expanded reopening guidelines being discussed at the White House, shift to economic focus

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said Monday there was potential for a “new look” to White House briefings reflect new focus on economy “reopening.”

“You are going to hear about some new things coming out of the White House today, but I wouldn’t read too much into exactly what the Washington Post is saying. They’re oftentimes wrong on their facts,” McEnany said. “So, I would wait for that announcement to come from the president and the White House.”

The Washington Post reported earlier Monday that the White House is finalizing expanded guidance for businesses as states look to reopen their economies.

Another White House official confirmed to ABC News that the possibility of issuing expanded guidelines is being discussed within the task force but would not confirm the specific document reported on by the Post.

The official further cautioned that there is an active internal debate about whether the White House should issue additional formal “guidelines.” Since it is ultimately up to the states to determine the specifics for reopening, there is talk of doing a less formal release of suggestions for states that businesses can follow.

No briefing today but press secretary says there will be future briefings at which Trump will be present

McEnany told White House reporters this morning there will be no briefing today, despite it appearing on the president and vice president’s schedules, pointing to an afternoon meeting with industry executives instead.

“We’re not tracking a briefing for today because there will be a press avail at 4 p.m. with the president and retail CEOs. There will be some briefings later in the week. They might have a new look to them, a new focus to them,” she said.

“I don’t want to get ahead of the announcement, but I would not read into that anything that we see them as negative because, in fact, we think that they have been a very positive, helpful opportunity for the president to speak to the American people,” McEnany added.

McEnany told Fox News earlier that there was “absolutely not an effort to cut back” on the number of task force briefings — but rather “an effort to showcase the American people the great entrepreneurship of this president.”

“We’re looking at different ways to showcase this president leading,” McEnany said. “The briefing’s a key component of that.”

Trump will “absolutely” attend future briefings, although she noted future briefings “may have a different look.” She did not elaborate.

“Make no mistake,” she said. “The president will be briefing the American people this week.”

Her insistence comes after reports that the White House is shifting its focus from health statistic to the economy and that the president will make fewer, shorter appearances at the briefings.

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