Biden, in fiery speech, goes after Trump's coronavirus response

·National Politics Reporter

An impassioned former Vice President Joe Biden hammered the president’s coronavirus response in a speech Wednesday, lambasting Donald Trump’s recent remarks suggesting that cases would go down if the country stopped testing.

“It’s a statement that’s not only absurd, it’s absolutely tragic,” said Biden in a speech in Pennsylvania to a crowd of about 20 local residents.

“For weeks in January and February, I was raising my concerns about how we need to take this virus seriously all the while Trump was ignoring the reporting from his own intelligence community in his daily briefings and the warnings of his closest advisers,” added Biden.

His speech comes hot off the heels of news that daily coronavirus infections have hit record highs in Florida, Texas and Arizona since those states’ economic reopening. 

The Trump campaign attempted to preempt Biden’s criticisms of the White House’s handling of COVID-19 mitigation and economic reopening a few hours before the former vice president was slated to speak.

“Biden has no credibility to talk about America’s reopening today because he’s been proven wrong about nearly everything,” the Trump campaign wrote in an email blast. “If Biden had his way, even more Americans would be in lockdown pain. The only plan Biden has for the future of America’s economy involves higher taxes and a War on American Energy that would put millions out of work.”

Joe Biden speaking in Darby, Pa., on Wednesday. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)
Joe Biden speaking in Darby, Pa., on Wednesday. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

The presumptive Democratic nominee is advised by a rotating group of coronavirus experts each morning. In February, his campaign established a public health advisory committee that focuses primarily on logistics rather than policy.

“Thanks to Donald Trump’s bungling we may lose some of the progress we’ve begun to make, all because he’s lost interest. He’s once again ignoring the facts,” Biden charged. “Public health response is still woefully, woefully lacking from this administration.”

Both Biden and Trump have begun to hold campaign events; this weekend, Trump will hold a rally in Tulsa, Okla., his first since the shutdown. Trump’s election campaign caught flak for requiring prospective rallygoers to waive the campaign’s responsibility for potential exposure to the coronavirus at the event. Addressing the criticism Wednesday afternoon, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany told reporters that the campaign is “taking every single precaution that we can” and will be passing out — but not requiring the wearing of — face masks.

Biden has yet to hold any large in-person campaign event, instead opting for small gatherings or live-streamed speeches from his home in Delaware or on location, such as the one he delivered on Wednesday from Darby, Pa. Reporters who cover such events are temperature-checked and required to wear masks. 

Trump is “so eager to get back in his campaign rallies that he’ll put people at risk in violation of CDC guidelines that still warn against large gatherings,” Biden said. “Donald Trump’s failure to fight the coronavirus with the same energy and focus that he uses to troll his enemies on Twitter has cost us lives — and is putting hope for an economic recovery at risk." 

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