Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden released a detailed plan on Thursday to address the fast-spreading coronavirus outbreak, including calling for paid sick leave and making testing widely available and free.
“Unfortunately, this virus laid bare the severe shortcomings of the current administration,” Biden said during a press conference in Wilmington, Delaware, during which he sought to contrast himself with President Trump and his administration’s response to the outbreak. “Public fears are being compounded by pervasive lack of trust in this president.”
The new coronavirus, which causes a disease called COVID-19, has killed 4,718 people and infected more than 127,800. There have been 38 deaths in the U.S. and 1,323 confirmed cases.
The former vice president, who closed in on becoming his party’s nominee on the 2020 ticket this week, called for a litany of policy proposals to combat the virus, including:
- Ensure that tests are available and free, while also establishing at least 10 mobile testing sites and drive-through facilities per state to speed up testing and protecting health care workers
- Guarantee that hospital capacity can meet growing needs by setting up “multi-hundred-bed temporary hospitals in any city on short notice”
- Task the Department of Justice with combating price gouging for critical supplies
- Providing overtime reimbursements for health workers, first responders and other essential workers
- Cover all testing, treatment and preventive services, including no copayments and deductibles
- Reimburse health care providers for COVID-19-related treatment
- Create a federal fund to cover 100 percent of weekly salaries or average weekly earnings capped at $1,400 per week, or about $72,800 in annual earnings
- Provide unemployment benefits to all those who lose jobs as well as assistance for those who have reduced hours or work-sharing arrangements
“When I’m president, we will be better prepared, respond better and recover better,” Biden said during the press conference. “We’ll lead with science, listen to the experts, heed their advice and rebuild American leadership.”
The Trump administration has faced criticism for the lack of coronavirus testing that’s being done compared with some other countries, something Biden slammed as a “colossal” failure.
Earlier in the week, the Democratic National Committee announced the Sunday night debate between Biden and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders will not have a live audience due to fears about the virus. Originally scheduled to take place in Phoenix, Arizona, the debate is now slated to occur in Washington, D.C., to reduce campaigns’ cross-country travel, DNC Communications Director Xochitl Hinojosa said in a statement.
“Our number one priority has and will continue to be the safety of our staff, campaigns and all those involved in the debate,” she wrote on Twitter.
Sanders and Biden both canceled events over coronavirus concerns on Tuesday. Biden also said on Thursday that his campaign is “reimagining the format” for events planned in Chicago and Miami.