WASHINGTON — Former Vice President Joe Biden announced his campaign’s plan to combat the coronavirus while slamming the Trump administration’s handling of the spread of the outbreak during a speech Thursday afternoon.
“The administration’s failure on testing is colossal,” Biden said in Wilmington, Del. “It’s a failure of planning, leadership and execution.”
“We have to help the world to drive coordinated global strategy, not shut ourselves out from the world. Unfortunately, this virus laid bare the severe shortcoming of the current administration,” he added.
Biden offered thinly veiled criticism of Trump as he ticked through the details of his campaign’s plans, which included free virus testing and collaboration with doctors and experts. He chided the White House’s travel bans for Europe.
“Neither should we panic or fall back on xenophobia. ... Labeling [the coronavirus] a foreign virus does not displace accountability for misjudgments that have been taken thus far by the Trump admin,” said Biden, referring to some conservative voices online that have referred to coronavirus as the “Wuhan virus,” a term not used by the scientific community. “Coronavirus does not have a political affiliation.”
Biden’s address came as economic and health uncertainty seemed to reach a fever pitch. Plummeting stock market numbers coupled with mixed messages from the Trump administration on the severity of the outbreak have left many questioning the fates of their investments and driving others to stockpile medical supplies with damaging consequences.
“The markets will respond to strong, steady, capable leadership that addresses the root of the problem, not efforts to cover it up,” said Biden.
Positioning himself as a de facto leader, Biden is attempting to clear a path to the nomination where he’s seen as not only the commander but also the healer in chief, able to unite a fractured Democratic Party and a country desperate for answers.
His Delaware speech is the first of several to test whether his message will stick with voters.
Biden and rival Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders have canceled campaign events amid growing calls for people to practice social distancing and concerns that COVID-19 will spread in close quarters. The Biden campaign announced a public health advisory committee earlier in the week “to minimize health risks for the candidate, staff and supporters.”
The group of doctors and experts will advise the campaign on a continuous basis. During his speech, Biden said his campaign is “reimagining” the format for upcoming large planned events.
“Downplaying it, being overly dismissive or spreading disinformation is only going to hurt us and further advantage the spread of the disease,” he said.
Sanders held a coronavirus roundtable in Detroit alongside medical professionals before Tuesday’s Michigan primary and pushed for a free vaccine once it is developed. He made his own remarks on the outbreak Thursday afternoon.
CNN made dramatic changes to its debate format too, moving the location from Arizona to D.C. and cutting the live audience as well as the media spin and file room, instead asking journalists to tune in from home.
Over the last few weeks, Trump has attempted to downplay the effects of COVID-19, despite warnings from government doctors about the disease’s severity. During testimony on Capitol Hill, National Institutes of Health doctor Anthony Fauci said that “many, many millions” could be infected with the virus if the government mishandles the response to the outbreak. “Things will get worse than they are right now,” Fauci added.
On Wednesday the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus crisis a pandemic. More than 4,200 have died from it globally, with 38 of those deaths happening in the U.S., a majority in Washington state.
Still, in an Oval Office address Wednesday evening, after banning travel from Europe for 30 days, Trump boasted that “the virus will not have a chance against us.”
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