The White House, after weeks of reluctance to disrupt the gears of government, has now instructed federal agencies to adjust their operations to focus on “mission-critical” services to contain the coronavirus by limiting face-to-face interactions.In a memo late Tuesday, acting budget director Russell Vought told department heads that they should “postpone or significantly curtail” operations that cannot be carried out through telework or that require in-person interaction with the public.“Government must immediately adjust operations and services to minimize face-to-face interactions, especially at those offices or sites where people may be gathering in close proximity or where highly vulnerable populations obtain services,” Vought wrote.He urged agencies to quickly communicate to the public any non-essential services they decide to cut — and postpone “non-mission critical functions” to limit the virus’s spread. He acknowledged that exceptions would be necessary for operations that protect public health and safety, including those in law enforcement and criminal justice roles.The memo was the strongest direction yet to federal leaders to put themselves on an emergency footing to fight the coronavirus. But it did not order agencies to trigger what are known as “continuity of operations” plans, the most extreme emergency planning tool at their disposal to scale

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