Biden – the clear front-runner in the Democratic presidential nomination race over Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont – also criticized President Trump's efforts to date to curb the spread of the virus, or COVID-19, in the United States.
“Downplaying it, being overly dismissive, or spreading misinformation is only going to hurt us and further advantage the spread of the disease. But neither should we panic or fall back on xenophobia,” Biden said in a speech from his hometown of Wilmington, Del.
“Labeling COVID-19 a foreign virus does not displace accountability for the misjudgments that have been taken thus far by the Trump administration,” Biden said as he took aim at the president for calling the pandemic a “foreign virus” in an Oval Office address Wednesday night that’s been criticized for a number of misstatements.
Biden called for “decisive public health response to curb the spread of the disease and to provide treatment to those who need it.”
He said his plan would ensure the wide availability of free testing, the elimination of all cost barriers for treatment and preventive care for COVID-19, the development of a vaccine and the deployment of supplies and personnel.
The former vice president also called for the “decisive economic response to deliver real relief to American works, families, and small businesses that protects the economy.”
Biden’s plan includes emergency paid leave for all those affected by the outbreak, including assistance to workers, families and small businesses that are hit hard by the economic upheaval.
Biden said that his plan is a “roadmap not for what I will do as president 10 months from now but for the leadership that I believe that is needed and required at this very moment.”
And needling his likely opponent in November’s election, Biden said that “President Trump is welcome to adopt all of it.”
Biden charged that “protecting the health and safety of the American people is the most important job of any president. Unfortunately, this virus laid bare the severe shortcomings of the current administration. Public fears are being compounded by pervasive lack of trust in this president, fueled by an adversarial relationship with truth that he continues to have. Our government’s ability to respond effectively has been undermined by hollowing out our agencies and disparagement of science.”
Moments after the conclusion of Biden’s speech, the Trump re-election campaign returned fire, arguing that in the past Biden’s “shown terrible judgment and incompetence in the face of public health issues.”
“The Obama White House had to publicly apologize for and clean up after Biden when his irresponsible remarks caused panic during the swine flu outbreak in 2009. Just weeks ago, he was openly critical of President Trump’s early move to restrict travel from China to the United States in response to the coronavirus – a decision which medical experts agree helped impede the spread of the virus to this country,” charged Trump campaign communications director Tim Murtaugh.
Biden’s campaign had announced on Wednesday that the former vice president would give the address Thursday afternoon on the coronavirus. The Sanders campaign announced just before Biden came before cameras that the senator would make his own address regarding the pandemic from his hometown of Burlington, Vt., later in the afternoon.