Donald Trump speaks to reporters in the White House, May 6, 2020 (Doug Mills/Getty)

Stung by intense criticism, Donald Trump retreats from dismissal of the White House Task Force on Coronavirus.

Trump’s reversal came as the US death toll rose to 73,431 on Wednesday, an increase of about 2,400 in 24 hours. Models used by the White House are projecting a daily rise of 3,000 by June 1.

But with his priority on lifting stay-at-home restrictions, Trump has chafed at the medical advice from the Task Force that a quick reopening will bring an even deadlier resurgence of the virus.

So on Tuesday both Vice President Mike Pence and Trump indicated the 22-member group, coordinated by Dr. Deborah Birx and including top infectious diseases expert Dr. Anthony Fauci, would be wound up by Memorial Day at the end of May.

See also TrumpWatch, Day 1,202: Trump Administration to Disband Coronavirus Task Force

On Wednesday morning, Trump retreated on Twitter:

Because of this success, the Task Force will continue on indefinitely with its focus on SAFETY & OPENING UP OUR COUNTRY AGAIN. We may add or subtract people to it, as appropriate. The Task Force will also be very focused on Vaccines & Therapeutics.

Later Trump made another concession, assuring that Birx and Fauci would continue to serve on the Task Force.

Fauci has used interviews to push back Trump’s disinformation and to challenge any quick lifting of stay-at-home and social distancing guidance.

In a rare moment of honesty, Trump acknowledged that he retreated because of public criticism:

I thought we could wind it down sooner. But I had no idea how popular the taskforce is until actually yesterday when I started talking about winding down. It is appreciated by the public.

Pence, who nominally heads the group, said, “I think we’re having conversations about that and about what the proper time is for the taskforce to complete its work and for the ongoing efforts to take place on an agency-by-agency level.”

Trump: Economy Takes Priority Over Lives

But even amid his retreat, Trump reiterated on Wednesday that his priority is on the economy over lives.

He told reporters, as a group of nurses came to the Oval Office:

The statement followed Trump’s declaration on Tuesday, “I’m not saying anything is perfect, and yes, will some people be affected? Yes. Will some people be affected badly? Yes. But we have to get our country open and we have to get it open soon.”

In the Wednesday photo opportunity, Trump repeated false statements about the status of Coronavirus testing. When a nurse gently explained the reality of dealing with the virus, amid shortages of personal protective equipment, Trump rebuked her:

Meanwhile, White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany contradicted Trump’s declaration on Tuesday that “everyone” in the US can now be tested for the virus.

“The notion that everyone needs to be tested is simply nonsensical,” she said.

The White House’s medical advisors have said that at least 500,000 daily tests are needed for any lifting of restrictions. Some medical experts put the number at 5 million.

But amid shortages and distribution problems, testing has plateaued at about 200,000 tests per day.