WASHINGTON – The White House peace team, spearheaded by Jared Kushner, has shifted its focus and is now assisting President Donald Trump with combating the coronavirus pandemic, an administration official has confirmed to The Jerusalem Post.
Following the president's address to the nation last week from the Oval Office and on Kushner's advice, Avi Berkowitz, a special representative for international negotiations, joined Kushner in recent days. It was not immediately clear what role the two are playing in helping with the administration's efforts.
"As Jared has gotten more involved on the coronavirus issue, it should not come as a surprise that Avi has as well," an administration official told the Post. "The entire team is focused on the coronavirus response and protecting the health of the American people. This is the priority."
The Washington Post first reported that Berkowitz, together with presidential counselor Hope Hicks, is assisting Kushner with the coronavirus crisis.
As of Sunday night, there have been 3,700 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the US and 69 deaths. The Trump administration has faced criticism over its response to the pandemic, mostly regarding the limited number of available coronavirus tests and the delay in supplying them to where they are needed.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommended on Sunday night that Americans should "cancel or postpone in-person events that consist of 50 people or more throughout the United States" for the next eight weeks.
"This recommendation does not apply to the day-to-day operation of organizations such as schools, institutes of higher learning, or businesses," the CDC said. "This recommendation is made in an attempt to reduce the introduction of the virus into new communities and to slow the spread of infection in communities already affected by the virus."
Meanwhile, a number of Congress members are still under self-quarantine. Sen. Ted Cruz announced on Twitter over the weekend that he would extend his self-quarantine period until March 17, after he learned that a second person he has been in contact with, the leader of Spain's VOX Party, has tested positive. The two met at Cruz's office on March 3.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, who has also been under self-quarantine since March 12 after meeting a Brazilian official who later tested positive for the coronavirus, shared on Twitter Sunday night that he took a test and it came back negative.
"I'm very grateful, and like everyone else will follow the best practices to stay negative," he said.
Similarly, Sen. Rick Scott has also been under self-quarantine since March 12 after meeting a Brazilian official at Mar-a-Lago. A few members of the House are under self-quarantine or working from home, as well.
Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser announced on Sunday that she would not allow restaurants to host more than 250 people and that sitting at the bar area will be prohibited.
Some 1,400 residents of the capital signed a petition on Sunday night, calling on the mayor to take more drastic steps to limit public gatherings, as the hashtag #ShutDownDC started trending on Twitter.