As states, cities, and businesses rushed to take action against the coronavirus Thursday, shutting down everything from Broadway to Disneyland, the Democratic contenders for the presidency offered up what the current president so far has not: actual plans for how to tackle the pandemic as it spreads throughout the U.S. One day after President Donald Trump delivered a disastrous Oval Office address that offered no roadmap for containing the nation’s rapidly-escalating outbreak, former Vice President Joe Biden and Senator Bernie Sanders offered their own responses to the growing crisis, giving voters an alternate view of how a president could actually assuage, rather than inflame, Americans’ fear. “Unfortunately, this virus laid bare the severe shortcomings of the current administration,” Biden said Thursday. “Public fears are being compounded by pervasive lack of trust in this president fueled by adversarial relationship with the truth that he continues to have.”
Speaking from the Hotel du Pont in Wilmington, Delaware, Biden laid out his own plan for tackling the coronavirus, which includes making testing broadly available and free of charge, taking immediate action to ensure there won’t be more Americans who need hospitalization than beds available, accelerating the development of a vaccine, and providing relief for the working-class Americans who will be hardest hit economically, among other measures. Saying that Trump is “welcome” to adopt his plan, Biden explained that its “core principle is simple: Public health professionals must be the ones making our public health decisions and communicating with the American people.” “It’s critical to mount an effective national response that will save lives, protect our frontline health workers, slow the spread of the virus,” Biden said.
“The coronavirus does not have a political affiliation. It will infect Republicans, Independents and Democrats alike and will not discriminate based on national origin, race, gender or zip code. It well touch people in positions of power as well as the most vulnerable in our society. And it will not stop,” Biden said Thursday. The former vice president criticized Trump’s recent decision to ban travel from Europe, saying, “Banning all travel from Europe or any other part of the world may slow it, but as we’ve seen it will not stop it. And travel restrictions based on favoritism and politics rather than a risk will be counterproductive.” “This disease could impact every nation and any person on the planet,” Biden continued. “We need a plan about how we’re going to aggressively manage here at home.”
Sanders spoke soon after with an address of his own, which laid out a coronavirus response in line with Sanders’s Democratic socialist platform and emphasis on working Americans, including providing “emergency unemployment assistance” to those who lose their jobs, emergency homeless shelters, and a “moratorium on evictions, on foreclosures and on utility shut offs.” The Vermont senator offered a sober assessment of the coronavirus, which he described as being “on a scale of a major war.” “The number of casualties may actually be even higher than what the Armed Forces experienced in World War II,” Sanders said. “In other words, we have a major, major crisis and we must act accordingly.” Sanders also used the opportunity to highlight the importance of the Medicare for All proposal at the heart of his platform, pointing out that the current U.S. health care system means “that millions of our people cannot afford to go to a doctor, let alone pay for coronavirus tests.” “So while we work to pass a Medicare for all single-payer system, the United States government today must make it clear that in the midst of this emergency, every one in our country, regardless of income or where they live, must be able to get all of the healthcare they need without cost,” Sanders said.