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Biden assails Trump over COVID-19 response

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Former Vice President Joe Biden criticizes the Trump administration’s response to coronavirus in Wilmington press conference on March 12. | DBT PHOTO BY JACOB OWENS

WILMINGTON – On the day that Delaware state officials announced that positive coronavirus cases had grown to four and the governor declared a state of emergency, former Vice President Joe Biden returned to his Wilmington home to issue his plan on how to address the health crisis.

He called for increased testing of the virus known as COVID-19, preparation of federal resources in response and fast-tracking of a vaccine. Above all though, Biden called for leadership from the White House and policy “led by science.”

Biden assailed the Trump administration’s response to COVID-19, calling it mismanaged and xenophobic.

“Let me be crystal clear: the coronavirus does not have a political affiliation … It will not discriminate based on national origin, race, gender, or zip code,” Biden said at a press conference held at the Hotel du Pont in downtown Wilmington, his first stop in his home state since becoming the Democratic presidential frontrunner. “A wall will not stop it. Banning all travel from Europe, or any other part of the world, may slow it — but as we have seen — it will not stop it. And travel restrictions based on favoritism and politics — rather than risk — will be counterproductive.”

Biden has formed a Public Health Advisory Committee, including former Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy, former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Dr. David Kessler and leading professors, to counsel his campaign on the pandemic and how to respond.

“We will lead by science,” he said. “Downplaying [COVID-19], being overly dismissive or spreading misinformation is only going to hurt us and further advantage the spread of the disease.”

Biden criticized President Donald Trump’s decision two years ago to eliminate White House National Security Council Directorate for Global Health Security and Biodefense, an office created by the Obama administration after the 2014 Ebola outbreak to helps coordinate responses to global public health crises.

Former Vice President Joe Biden addresses the media in a speech about coronavirus in Wilmington on March 12. | DBT PHOTO BY JACOB OWENS

He also called for federal funding and guidance to ensure anyone who needs to be tested based on medical guidelines to be tested free of charge, and that high-risk patients have easy access to tests. Biden said that the White House should be reporting daily on the spread of the virus.

“The administration’s failure on testing is colossal. It is a failure of planning, leadership, and execution,” he said.

To help facilitate testing, Biden called upon the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, private labs, universities, and manufacturers to establish hundreds of mobile testing sites — at least 10 per state — and drive-thru testing centers to speed testing and protect health care workers.

Biden also said that Trump should order the Federal Emergency Management Agency to prepare to work with local authorities in establishing temporary hospitals with hundreds of beds, and that the Department of Defense be prepared to provide medical and logistical support.

“A week from now, a month from now, we could need an instant, 500-bed hospital to isolate and treat patients in any city in the country. We can do that — but we aren’t ready yet, and the clock is ticking,” he said.

Biden also called for the acceleration of the development of treatments and a vaccine, noting that it will be months for a safe vaccine to be ready for the public.

“We must fast-track clinical trials within the National Institutes of Health, while closely coordinating with the Food and Drug Administration on trial approvals, so that the science is not hindered by the bureaucracy. And, when we do have a vaccine ready to go, it should also be made widely available, free of charge,” he said.

In addressing COVID-19’s economic impact, Biden called for the Trump administration to worry more about aid to Main Street rather than the publicly discussed tax breaks for Wall Street.

“This crisis will hit everyone, but it will hit folks who live paycheck-to-paycheck the hardest, including working people and seniors,” he said. “Another tax cut to Google or Goldman or millionaires won’t get the job done.”

Biden noted that the virus’s economic and societal impacts would cause job losses, childcare issues, food insecurity, lack of access to the internet, foreclosures and evictions, small business bankruptcies and more if greater aid isn’t provided.

 “It is a national disgrace that millions of our fellow citizens do not have a single day of paid sick leave,” he said. “We need — both — a permanent plan for paid sick leave and an emergency plan for everyone who needs it due to the outbreak.”

Joe Biden made his first public visit to Delaware since becoming the Democratic presidential frontrunner on March 12. | DBT PHOTO BY JACOB OWENS

Cognizant of the limits of the federal government, Biden advised creating a State and Local Emergency Fund to make sure governors, mayors, and local have the needed resources to address the crisis. He said the monies could be used at the discretion of local leaders for whatever they need most, from health care resources to cushioning the economic impact.

In ending his roughly 12-minute speech, Biden returned to the idea of leadership amid the growth public health crisis.

 “No president can promise to prevent future outbreaks. But I can promise you that when I’m president, we will prepare better, respond better, and recover better,” he said. “We will lead with science. We will listen to experts and heed their advice. We will rebuild American leadership and rally the world to meet global threats. And I will always, always tell you the truth. That is the responsibility of a president. That is what is owed to the American people.”

By Jacob Owens

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