One of the first questions during last night’s presidential debate was about COVID-19. And, although the debate was chaotic to say the absolute least, former Vice President Joe Biden did manage to get in some clear criticism of President Trump’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.
The second subject of the presidential debate was COVID-19, “an awfully serious subject,” as moderator Chris Wallace put it. “Based on what you have said and done so far and what you have said you would do starting in 2021, why should the American people trust you to deal with this public health crisis going forward?” Wallace asked, directing the question to Biden first.
For starters, Biden pointed out that the U.S. only accounts for about 4% percent of the world’s population, but is responsible for 20% of the global coronavirus death toll. To date, over 200,000 people have died in the U.S. and 1 million have died globally due to COVID-19, the New York Times reports.
“Between 750 and 1,000 people a day are dying,” Biden said. About 700 to 800 people have died in the U.S. due to COVID-19 every day in September, daily deaths data from the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME). “When [Trump] was presented with that number, he said, ‘It is what it is.’ Well it is what it is, because you are who you are.”
He also later touched on the disproportionate effect the pandemic has had on Black communities in the U.S. “You talk about helping African Americans—one in 1,000 African Americans has been killed because of the coronavirus,” Biden said, “and if he doesn’t do something quickly, by the end of the year, 1 in 500 African Americans will have been killed.” Recent estimates from the APM Research Lab suggest that one in every 1,020 Black people has died from COVID-19 in the U.S. (compared to one in every 2,150 white people).
Biden went on to criticize Trump’s initial response to the pandemic. “The president has no plan. He knew all the way back in February how serious this crisis was,” Biden said, referring to the recently released recordings of Trump speaking to journalist Bob Woodward. “He knew it was a deadly disease. What did he do? He said he didn’t tell us or give the people a warning of it because he didn’t want to panic the American people. You don’t panic, he panicked.”
Previously, Biden outlined his plan to combat COVID-19, which centers on two major points: First, the plan calls for a decisive public health response that involves widely available testing, developing a vaccine, and the distribution of crucial medical supplies. Second, there would be an economic response, which would include emergency aid to the people and businesses impacted by the pandemic.
“I laid out in March exactly what we should be doing, and I laid out again in July exactly what we should be doing,” Biden said during the debate. “You [Trump] should get out of your bunker and get out of the sand trap on your golf course and get in the Oval Office and bring together the Democrats and Republicans and fund what needs to be done now to save lives.”
When asked about his accelerated vaccine timeline, Trump responded that it was simply a “political thing,” and that he’s spoken to the pharmaceutical companies himself about getting a vaccine rolled out sooner. Experts, including the directors of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, agree that having a vaccine available to the general public before the end of the year—and definitely before Election Day—is highly unlikely.
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