Joe Biden releases coronavirus plan, pushing contrast with Trump

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Former US Vice President and Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden speaks about COVID-19, known as the Coronavirus, during a press event in Wilmington, Delaware on March 12, 2020.

Saul Loeb | AFP | Getty Images

Former Vice President Joe Biden released his plan to combat the coronavirus pandemic on Thursday during an address aimed at demonstrating a contrast with President Donald Trump’s efforts.

“Unfortunately this virus laid bare the severe shortcomings of the current administration,” Biden said in front of American flags at an event in Wilmington, Delaware. “Public fears are being compounded by pervasive lack of trust in this president.”

Biden, the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination, said the Trump administration “has left us woefully unprepared for the exact crisis we now face.”

Biden’s plan combines a series of public health measures, including free public testing and rapid deployment of supplies, as well as economic measures such as emergency paid leave and the creation of a state and local emergency fund. The full details were posted to his campaign website as he spoke. 

“We need bigger and broader measures to shore up the economic demand, protect jobs, keep credit flowing to our job creators and make sure we have the economic fire power we need to weather the storm and get the people and this economy back to full strength as soon as possible,” Biden said during a 15-minute address.  

Biden, who did not take questions, said the “core principle” of his plan was that “public health professionals must be the ones making our public health decisions and communicating with the American people.” 

“Downplaying it, being overly dismissive, or spreading misinformation is only going to hurt us and further advantage the spread of the disease,” Biden said. “But neither should we panic or fall back on xenophobia. Labeling COVID-19 a ‘foreign virus’ does not displace accountability for the misjudgments that have been taken thus far by the Trump administration.”

In his Oval Office address Wednesday night, Trump referred to the coronavirus as “a foreign virus.”

Biden’s speech came a day after the campaign announced the formation of a coronavirus advisory committee that counts Obama administration veterans including former Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy and former homeland security advisor Lisa Monaco.

Biden’s rival for the nomination, Sen. Bernie Sanders, will deliver remarks at 3 p.m. ET in Burlington, Vermont, about the coronavirus. 

The Trump campaign responded to Biden’s remarks in a statement that accused him of showing “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,” the campaign said.

In his address Wednesday night, Trump announced a ban on travel to the U.S. from most of Europe for 30 days. He also said he would seek legislation from Congress on payroll tax relief among other economic measures for groups that are particularly affected by the virus. 

“This is the most aggressive and comprehensive effort to confront a foreign virus in modern history,” Trump said.

Biden said Thursday that “banning all travel from Europe or any other place in the world may slow it but, as we’ve seen it will not stop it.”

“This disease could impact every nation and any person on the planet, and we need a plan for how we are going to aggressively manage it here at home,” he said. 

The rapidly spreading pandemic has infected about 125,000 people globally and killed at least 38 in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

Fears that the virus and efforts to contain it will halt global economic activity have sent financial markets plummeting around the world. 

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