Democratic Presidential candidate Joe Biden on Tuesday used the occasion of his first news conference in nearly 90 days to launch a fresh attack on United States President Donald Trump for what he called the president’s “historic mismanagement” of the coronavirus pandemic.
Speaking in his hometown of Wilmington, Delaware, the former vice president argued that earlier action by Trump would have reduced the number who fell ill and the economic impact of the virus. Biden accused Trump of “outright ignoring the crisis” as cases rise.
Biden said Trump, who at one point in the pandemic declared himself a “wartime president”, appears to have given up the fight.
“Now it’s almost July and it seems our wartime president has surrendered, waved the white flag and abandoned the battlefield,” Biden said.
“The American people didn’t make enormous sacrifices over the past four months so … you can waste all their efforts they have undertaken with your midnight rantings and tweets,” added Biden, who delivered the speech to reporters in a high school gymnasium.
At least 2.6 million cases of the coronavirus have been reported in the US and more than 126,000 deaths – a higher number of cases and fatalities than in any other country.
Biden released an updated plan to tackle the pandemic, which would include more COVID-19 testing and hiring at least 100,000 contract tracers. He added that widespread use of masks and social distancing practices must be normal protocol for the “foreseeable future”, and warned that COVID-19 “will likely worsen” during the coming flu season.
“We can’t continue half recovering, half getting worse,” Biden said. “We can’t continue half with a plan and half just hoping for the best. We can’t defeat this virus with a piecemeal approach.”
Trump and his allies say the toll of the virus could have been larger without travel bans he put in place for visitors from China, and later from Europe. They have argued that the increasing numbers of confirmed cases in recent weeks are largely attributable to more testing, although the rate of positive tests has also been rising.
In response to Biden’s attacks, Trump campaign spokeswoman Courtney Parella said the presumptive Democratic nominee was “fearmongering and rooting against America’s success” while Trump leads a public and private-sector mobilisation that has slowed the spread of the virus.
The Republican president is trailing Biden in polls ahead of the November 3 election. A June 22-23 Reuters/Ipsos poll found that only 37 percent of Americans approved of the way Trump has responded to the pandemic – the lowest since the pandemic began.
At Tuesday’s news conference, Biden said he hoped to announce his choice as a running mate in early August. He has promised to select a woman for the position and has been under pressure from many Democrats to pick a woman of colour.
In response to a question protesters toppling statues commemorating Confederate heroes of the Civil War, Biden said their actions are understandable but adding that it was better to get the statues removed via peaceful means. He said such statues belong in museums, not public squares.
Responding to attacks from Trump calling into question his state-of-mind, Biden said he “can hardly wait to compare my cognitive capability to the cognitive capability of the man I’m running against”.