The coronavirus pandemic was a major topic of conversation during the Sept. 29 presidential debate, with Democratic nominee Joe Biden using the opportunity to call President Donald Trump a “fool” and rip him for his handling of the global catastrophe. Biden blasted Trump for not promoting the idea of wearing a mask, a move that experts say would decrease coronavirus cases and deaths and which would help people who get infected get less sick.
“He’s been totally irresponsible in the way in which he handled social distancing and people wearing masks; basically encouraging them not to,” Biden said. “He’s a fool on masks.”
Trump pulled a mask out of his suit jacket and held it up to the camera and said he didn’t have a problem with masks. The president, though, has been loath to wear one in public, and most of the time, it’s hard to find anybody donning a face covering at his public rallies that feature thousands of people packed close together.
Instead, Trump blasted Biden for what he hypothetically would have done if Biden were in charge.
“If we had listened to you and left the country wide open, millions would have died,” Trump told Biden. “You could never have done the job we did; you don’t have it in your blood.”
A few days later, Trump tested positive for COVID-19 and had to be moved to Walter Reed Medical Hospital. Even after the positive test, the White House was reportedly lax on contact tracing, even though a number of people connected to Trump also tested positive in the next few days. Later in October, at least five people around Vice President Mike Pence were infected by the virus. On Nov. 2, the day before the election, Trump said he might fire Anthony Fauci, the face of the administration’s coronavirus response team. A few days after that, Mark Meadows, the president’s chief of staff, also tested positive. Through it all, Trump has continued not having a federal plan.
During the debate, Biden also made reference to Trump claiming a miracle would make the virus disappear and for telling his supporters, in Biden’s words, that “maybe you inject bleach in your arm and that would take care of it.” Trump said those comments were sarcastic, though it certainly didn’t seem like he was joking at the time he mentioned disinfectant in April 2020.
“Get out of the bunker, get out of the sand trap and get to the Oval Office and fund what needs to be done now to save lives,” Biden said. “He does not have a plan.”
Trump pointed to his decision to ban travelers from China from entering the U.S. in the early days of the pandemic, though an Associated Press fact check said he only restricted travel and didn’t outright ban it. Trump also said the federal government provided PPE to healthcare workers, saying, “We got the gowns, we got the masks, we made the ventilators.”
But Biden hit Trump on his revelation to journalist Bob Woodward in February that he knew about the deadliness of the virus but wanted to downplay it in public so citizens wouldn’t panic.
“You didn’t panic,” Biden said, addressing Americans who were watching. “He panicked.”
Biden also blamed Trump for the fact more than 200,000 people have died from the coronavirus in the U.S. and more than 7 million have been infected. In September, Trump said that the death rate “is what it is.”
“It is what it is because you are who you are,” Biden said during the debate. “That’s why it is. The president has no plan.”