WASHINGTON — Former vice president Joe Biden excoriated President Trump’s Covid-19 response as he accepted the Democratic presidential nomination on Thursday, casting the pandemic as the defining issue in the Nov. 3 election.
Biden lambasted the president for continually downplaying the pandemic, even as it continues to spread throughout the country.
“The president keeps telling us the virus is going to disappear,” he said. “He keeps waiting for a miracle. I have news for him: No miracle is coming.”
Biden said he would immediately move to implement a sweeping pandemic-response plan that he argued the White House still lacks, more than six months after Covid-19 reached U.S. soil.
“After all this time, the president still does not have a plan,” Biden said. “Well, I do. If I’m your president, on Day 1, we’ll implement the national strategy I’ve been laying out since March.”
The speech capped a weeklong Democratic National Convention laser-focused on the pandemic — and conducted almost entirely by videoconference due to virus fears. Throughout the convention, top Biden surrogates, sitting lawmakers, former president Barack Obama, and Biden’s running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris of California, have highlighted the Trump administration’s piecemeal pandemic response and the resulting carnage.
“Just judge this president on the facts,” Biden said. “Five million Americans infected by Covid-19. More than 170,000 Americans have died — by far the worst performance of any nation on Earth.” (The raw U.S. death toll is higher than any other country, but the country ranks eighth among major nations in terms of deaths per capita.)
The national strategy Biden referenced is based on advice from leading public health officials, including numerous high-level Obama administration deputies, all of whom began working with his campaign even before he clinched the Democratic nomination.
He has elevated key officials including Zeke Emanuel, a key Affordable Care Act architect; David Kessler, the former Food and Drug Administration commissioner; Nicole Lurie, the former assistant health secretary for preparedness and response; and Vivek Murthy, the former surgeon general.
His Covid-19 plan includes an ambitious scale-up of testing, mandatory mask requirements across all 50 states, and daily briefings conducted by scientists, not by politicians.
The actress Julia Louis-Dreyfus, who played host to much of Thursday evening’s programming, recalled that Biden was among the first to call her after her recent cancer diagnosis, and cited his leadership of the Obama administration’s Cancer Moonshot just a year after the death of his son, Beau, from brain cancer.
Murthy, the former surgeon general and a top Covid-19 adviser to the Biden campaign, attacked Trump in an uncommonly sharp rebuke from a former health official.
“We need a leader who works with states to ensure that everyone who needs a test gets one and gets results quickly,” he said in a televised speech earlier Thursday. “A leader who secures a safe, effective vaccine and distributed quickly and fairly; a leader who inspires us to practice distancing and wear masks, not as a political statement but as a patriotic duty.”
In a statement, the Trump campaign said Biden was “behind the curve” on Covid-19 and accused him of rewriting history regarding the president’s reaction and his own. “There’s no evidence he would have handled it differently,” the statement said.
Before Covid-19, Biden had sought to strike a middle ground on health reform, proposing sweeping expansions of health insurance even as he resisted advocates’ push for universal, government-run health care.
His health care agenda, if implemented, would still represent a dramatic expansion of health insurance for Americans. Biden’s proposals include a “public option” that would allow Americans who don’t like private insurance options to buy into government coverage similar to Medicare. It would increase the value of the Affordable Care Act’s tax credits, and, separately, allow low-income Americans in states that have declined to expand Medicaid access to the same public insurance option — without paying monthly premiums.
And on prescription drug prices, a defining policy issue throughout Trump’s first term and in the 2018 election, Biden has pledged to repeal a longstanding ban on direct price negotiation between Medicare price negotiation. His platform also includes a scheme to limit the price of expensive new drugs upon their approval, and limiting drug price increases to the rate of inflation.