Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden sought Wednesday to make the differences in how he and President Donald Trump have approached the coronavirus pandemic a part of his closing message, sitting for a briefing with health experts and addressing the crisis as Trump campaigned out West as if it was over.
Wednesday’s event was the latest in Biden’s series of demonstrations of how he would handle the pandemic – which have become a regular feature of his campaign, underscoring his aides’ belief that the virus’ spread on Trump’s watch is the dominant factor in the November 3 election.
“We discussed importance of wearing masks, protecting yourself, protecting your neighbor and to save around 100,000 lives in the months ahead,” Biden said in a speech after the briefing. “This is not political. It’s patriotic. Wearing a mask. Wear one, period.”
Biden’s approach demonstrates a fundamental difference between his campaign and Trump’s in the closing days of the 2020 election: Trump is campaigning as if the pandemic is over, holding multiple rallies per day with thousands of maskless supporters. Biden is campaigning with an acknowledgment that it has upended American life and politics, minimizing his public events and – when he does travel – delivering made-for-TV speeches and holding “drive-in” outdoor rallies in which attendees stay near their cars, instead of the larger mega-rallies typical of a presidential campaign.
“We are turning the corner. We are rounding the curve, we will vanquish the virus,” Trump said in Wisconsin on Tuesday, where coronavirus cases are surging.
The former vice president’s closing message has been twofold: Trump is a poisonous presence in a political system Biden claims he can get to function again, which was the theme of a Tuesday speech Biden delivered in Georgia; and Trump has failed in responding to the pandemic, which his Wednesday briefing and speech were designed to highlight.
Biden’s public coronavirus briefings – a regular feature of his campaign for months – are carefully staged. On Wednesday, he sat alone at a table on a stage in Wilmington’s Queen Theater in front of a massive screen as four public health experts, including former Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, briefed him remotely.
The screen also displayed charts showing the seven-day rolling average of reported coronavirus cases and hospitalizations resulting from the virus.
“There’s no doubt, we are in the midst of the third wave,” Dr. David Kessler, a former Food and Drug Administration commissioner and the chair of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, said in a portion of the briefing reporters were allowed to watch. “I don’t think anyone can tell you how high this is going to get.”
“Almost the entire nation is worsening at this point,” Kessler said.
Biden on Wednesday said the Trump administration has refused to recognize the reality of the pandemic, calling that failure “an insult to every single person suffering from Covid-19.”
“Even if I win, it’s going to take a lot of hard work to end this pandemic. I’m not running on the false promise of being to end this pandemic by flipping a switch,” Biden said in a speech after his briefing. He added that he would start on day one “doing the right things. We’ll let science drive our decisions.”
He also highlighted the contrast in optics between his campaign and Trump’s, pointing out that many attendees at a Trump rally in Nebraska on Tuesday night were stranded in a cold parking lot afterward, calling it “an image that captures President Trump’s whole approach to this crisis.”