Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, left, and Sen. Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia, are joined at rear by Sen. Mike Rounds, R-South Dakota, center, and Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, right, at a 2018 news conference in Washington. Credit: J. Scott Applewhite | AP

Click here for the latest coronavirus news, which the BDN has made free for the public. You can support our critical reporting on the coronavirus by purchasing a digital subscription or donating directly to the newsroom.

Maine’s two senators were appointed to a presidential task force to advise on reopening the U.S. economy from the coronavirus-induced shutdown.

Sens. Susan Collins, a Republican, and Angus King, an independent who caucuses with Democrats, are among the more than two dozen members of Congress serving on the committee. It is being assembled as President Donald Trump has expressed a desire to resume normal economic activities as soon as possible despite warnings from health officials.

Collins said in a release Thursday afternoon that it was “imperative” that the country develop a plan to reopen the economy “once is it determined safe to do so by medical experts.” She cited the need to ramp up testing while working to develop treatments and a vaccine.

In another statement, King said his contributions to the task force would be “based on expert advice,” saying that the path to reopening the economy should rely on ongoing data, rather than “an arbitrary date on the calendar.”

[Our COVID-19 tracker contains the most recent information on Maine cases by county]

Members of Congress were notified that they were appointed to the bipartisan committee on Wednesday morning, Politico reported. They are expected to have a phone call with Trump on Thursday.

Trump said earlier this week that he, not governors, had total authority to authorize the opening of businesses, a claim he later walked back. However, Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said Tuesday that the country does not yet have sufficient testing and tracing procedures to consider reopening the economy.

Maine has seen a surge in jobless claims over the last four weeks as many businesses have shut down, with roughly 89,000 new unemployment claims filed during that timespan. As of Thursday, there are now 796 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the state, with 27 deaths.