(cbsnews) – President Trump has taken the first formal step toward withdrawing the U.S. from the World Health Organization, a move that comes as countries around the globe continue to grapple with the coronavirus pandemic that has claimed the lives of more than 540,000 people worldwide.
A senior administration official told CBS News that the administration has submitted a notice of withdrawal, which will be effective July 6, 2021, to the United Nations secretary-general, who is the depositary for the WHO. Withdrawing from the organization requires a one-year notice before becoming final.
Democratic Senator Bob Menendez of New Jersey said Congress has received notification of the withdrawal. Menendez, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, lambasted the move, tweeting that to call Mr. Trump’s “response to COVID chaotic & incoherent doesn’t do it justice.”
“This won’t protect American lives or interests — it leaves Americans sick & America alone,” he said.
United Nations Foundation President and CEO Elizabeth Cousens called termination of the U.S. relationship with the WHO “short-sighted, unnecessary and unequivocally dangerous.”
“W.H.O. is the only body capable of leading and coordinating the global response to COVID-19,” she said in a statement. “Terminating the U.S. relationship would undermine the global effort to beat this virus – putting all of us at risk.”
The Trump administration’s move to formally severe ties with the WHO comes more than a month after Mr. Trump announced he would be “terminating” the U.S.’s relationship with the body over its handling of the coronavirus pandemic. The president has pinned much of the blame for the rapid spread of the coronavirus around the world on the agency, calling it “China-centric” and too slow to respond to the outbreak.
Still, the move comes as several counties, including those in the Southern Hemisphere, continue to battle the coronavirus and work to mitigate its spread. Brazil is a global hotspot, and its president, Jair Bolsonaro revealed Tuesday he tested positive for the coronavirus after downplaying its severity for months. Cases are also rising in India and parts of South America, including Argentina and Colombia.
In the U.S., more than 40 states are experiencing spikes in coronavirus infections, and governors of several states have halted phased reopenings of their economies.
Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director-general of the WHO, warned Tuesday the outbreak is “accelerating” and said the “case for national unity and global solidarity is undeniable.”
“We cannot afford any divisions,” he said.
The global health agency is sending experts to China to advance research to better understand how the coronavirus was transmitted to humans, Ghebreyesus said.
There have been more than 11.6 million confirmed coronavirus cases worldwide, including nearly 3 million in the U.S., according to Johns Hopkins University.