WASHINGTON • Former US vice-president Joe Biden on Thursday laced into President Donald Trump, condemning him for saying he ordered a slowdown of coronavirus testing and comparing him to a whiny child.
“He admitted telling people, and I quote, ‘You have to slow the testing down. Slow it down, please’,” said Mr Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee.
“He thinks that finding out that more Americans are sick will make him look bad. That’s what he’s worried about: He’s worried about looking bad.”
Mr Biden’s speech at a gymnasium in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, was intended to focus attention on his call to expand protections under the Affordable Care Act.
He warned that insurance firms, if freed from the federal mandate to cover pre-existing medical conditions, could deny people coverage if they had suffered from Covid-19.
And he called the Trump administration’s legal efforts to overturn the 2010 healthcare law “cruel”.
“If Donald Trump has his way, complications from Covid-19 could become a new pre-existing condition,” Mr Biden said.
The Trump administration has fought for years to undermine and repeal the Affordable Care Act, the signature legislative achievement of former president Barack Obama’s administration. Last month, the Trump administration argued to a federal appeals court that the entire law was unconstitutional and should be struck down.
The emotional thrust of Mr Biden’s remarks came in his denunciation of Mr Trump’s halting response to the pandemic. Without a capable leader in the White House, Mr Biden said, it will be up to the American people to care for themselves during the crisis.
The number of coronavirus cases has spiked across much of the US, particularly in the Sun Belt states that were among the first to reopen.
In Texas on Thursday, Governor Greg Abbott, who had earlier encouraged a quick reopening, paused the process in an effort to free up hospital rooms for people suffering from the virus.
“The number of cases is increasing in 29 states,” Mr Biden said.
“We are going to be dealing with this for a long time. Trump can’t wish it away. He can’t bend it to meet his political wishes. There are no miracles coming.”
Mr Biden’s Lancaster event came after harsh criticism from Mr Trump’s re-election campaign that the former vice-president had been conducting his campaign primarily from his home in Wilmington, Delaware, due to coronavirus concerns.
He thinks that finding out that more Americans are sick will make him look bad. That’s what he’s worried about: He’s worried about looking bad… If Donald Trump has his way, complications from Covid-19 could become a new pre-existing condition.
MR JOE BIDEN, on how the Trump administration’s efforts to overturn the Affordable Care Act may impact the people.
But there is little evidence so far that American voters are punishing Mr Biden for his caution. A suite of polls from The New York Times and Siena College released this week show Mr Biden leading Mr Trump by 14 percentage points nationwide and with healthy leads in the battleground states of Arizona, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.
On Thursday, Mr Biden called on Americans to wear masks in public to protect themselves and others.
“I know as Americans, it’s not something we’re used to, but it matters,” he said.
Mr Trump first said he ordered a slowdown in coronavirus testing during a speech last Saturday in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He noted that more testing had led to more evidence of infection, which he said reflected poorly on the US.
Mr Biden called Mr Trump’s response self-centred and compared him to a child who constantly complains about being unable to get what he wants. “The President wants you to believe this is a choice between the economy and the public’s health. He still hasn’t grasped the most basic fact of this crisis: To fix our economy, we have to get control of the virus,” Mr Biden said.
“He’s like a child who just can’t believe this has happened to him. It’s all whining and self-pity,” he added.
“This pandemic didn’t happen to him. It happened to all of us.”