Democratic presidential candidates Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders both outlined plans to combat the fast-spreading coronavirus this week, but laid out remarkably different visions of how best to tackle the deadly outbreak.
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The 2020 rivals slammed the Trump administration’s approach to containing the virus, which causes a disease known as COVID-19, while trying to position themselves as the best person to steer the U.S. through the crisis in separate speeches from their respective hometowns in Burlington, Vermont and Wilmington, Delaware.
Biden, the party frontrunner and building a nearly insurmountable delegate lead during Tuesday’s primaries, released a litany of policy proposals and emphasized the need for solidarity and trust in science.
“Unfortunately, this virus laid bare the severe shortcomings of the current administration,” Biden said. “Public fears are being compounded by a pervasive lack of trust in this president fueled by [an] adversarial relationship with the truth that he continues to have.”
Biden laid out a multi-pronged plan for combating the disease, including guaranteeing free tests for those who need it, rushing resources to hospitals and health care workers to ensure they’re equipped to handle the pandemic and creating a fund for paid sick leave, capped out at $1,400 per week, or about $72,800 in annual earnings.
The former vice president also used his 20-minute speech to attack President Trump for the slow rollout of testing kits and called for the creation of hundreds of mobile sites and drive-through testing centers to speed up the process. The U.S. has tested an estimated 10,000 individuals for the disease, according to Politico, while countries like South Korea have been testing about 10,000 per day.
Ninety minutes after Biden spoke, Sanders offered his own dark assessment of the outbreak, calling for swift and drastic measures to stem the spread of the disease. That includes guaranteeing unemployment insurance and building homeless shelters to an immediate moratorium on evictions.
“The crisis we face from the coronavirus is on a scale of a major war, and we must act accordingly,” he said. “The number of casualties may actually be even higher than what the armed forces experienced in World War II. In other words, we have a major, major crisis and we must act accordingly.”
Sanders also used coronavirus to make the argument for his signature policy issue, Medicare-for-all, which would extend government-run insurance to all Americans.
“During a crisis, we must make sure that we care for the communities most vulnerable to the health and economic pain that is coming,” Sanders said. “The coronavirus is already causing a global economic meltdown, which is impacting people throughout the world and in our own country — and it is especially dangerous for low-income and working-class families.”