Biden offers coronavirus plan that will ‘lead by science’

The Democratic presidential hopeful called for free and increased COVID-19 testing, the development of a cost-free vaccine and cooperation with allies.

Presidential candidate Joe Biden speaks at the Hotel DuPont about his campaign and the impact of coronavirus on Thursday, March 11, 2020 in Wilmington, Del. (Saquan Stimpson for WHYY)

Presidential candidate Joe Biden speaks at the Hotel DuPont about his campaign and the impact of coronavirus on Thursday, March 11, 2020 in Wilmington, Del. (Saquan Stimpson for WHYY)

Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden said Thursday that he will address the coronavirus pandemic with a plan of action and will “lead by science.”

At a press conference in Wilmington, the former vice president called for increased COVID-19 testing free of charge, the development of a cost-free vaccine and increased capacity at hospitals.

“The administration’s failure on testing is colossal, and it’s a failure on planning, leadership and execution,” Biden said. “The White House should measure and report each day how many tests have been ordered, how many tests have been completed and how many have been tested positive.”

“By next week, the number of tests should be in the millions, not the thousands,” he added. “Tests should be available to all that need them and the government should stop at nothing to make that happen.”

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Biden also called for increased tracking of testing, paid sick leave so individuals can self-quarantine without financial setbacks and an emergency fund to help states and cities tackle the virus.

Wednesday night, President Donald Trump addressed the nation to lay out his plan to tackle COVID-19, including a 30-day suspension of travel to the United States from countries in Europe.

Biden said he might slow travel from Europe, but would not stop it entirely.

“Downplaying [the virus], being overly dismissive or spreading misinformation will only hurt us and further spread the disease,” Biden said. “But neither should we panic or fall back on xenophobia. Labeling COVID-19 a foreign virus does not displace accountability for the misjudgments that have been taken thus far by the Trump administration.”

“Public fears are compounded by a pervasive lack of trust in this president, fueled by the adversarial relationship with the truth he continues to have,” Biden added. “Our government’s ability to respond effectively has been undermined by hollowing out our agencies and disparagement of science, and our ability to drive our global response is undercut by the damage Trump has done to our credibility and relationships around the world.”

Biden scheduled Thursday’s press conference in Wilmington, his hometown, after canceling a speech in Florida. Instead of campaign rallies, Biden has announced he will have “virtual events” in Illinois and Florida, where voters will cast ballots next Tuesday in Democratic primary elections.

On Wednesday, Biden announced the formation of a public-health advisory committee to provide “science-based expert advice.”

His chief rival for the nomination, Bernie Sanders, also scheduled a speech on the coronavirus Thursday.

There are about 128,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases worldwide and over 4,700 deaths as of Thursday afternoon. There are more than 1,200 confirmed cases in the United States, with 26 deaths so far.

In the three-state area, there have been four presumed positive cases in Delaware, 22 in Pennsylvania, and 29 in New Jersey, with one death.

Biden said the U.S. must work with its allies to combat the spread of the virus.

“We have to confront coronavirus everywhere,” he said. “We should be leading a coordinated global response, just like we did with the Ebola crisis, which draws on the incredible capability of the U.S. Agency for International Development and our State Department to assist vulnerable nations in detecting and treating the coronavirus wherever it’s spread.”

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