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Joe Biden, the Democratic presidential candidate, has said he was not surprised by Donald Trump’s coronavirus infection and delivered a blunt rebuke: “Masks matter.”
Speaking at an NBC television town hall event in Miami, Florida, the former vice president drew a stark contrast with Trump, who on returning to the White House just an hour earlier instantly removed his face mask for a photo op.
“I would hope that the president having gone through what he went through – and I’m glad he seems to be coming along pretty well – would communicate the right lesson to the American people,” Biden told moderator Lester Holt on an open air stage.
“Masks matter. These masks, they matter. It matters. It saves lives. It prevents the spread of the disease. Social distancing – the only thing I heard was one of the tweets saying that, you know, don’t be so concerned about all this, essentially. There’s a lot to be concerned about.”
Shortly after his return to the White House, Trump recorded a triumphant video statement in which he claimed to be overcoming the virus and urged Americans: “Don’t let it dominate you. Don’t be afraid of it. You’re gonna beat it.”
More than 200,000 people in the US have died from Covid-19, the highest total in the world.
Holt noted that a recent poll found two in three people think the president bears some responsibility for contracting this virus. Biden agreed: “Look, anybody who contracts the virus by essentially saying, masks don’t matter, social distancing doesn’t matter, I think is – is responsible for what happens to them.”
Picking up and showing his own mask, he added forcefully: “I view wearing this mask not so much protecting me, but as a patriotic responsibility. All the tough guys say: ‘I’m not wearing a mask. I’m not afraid.’
“Well, be afraid for your husband, your wife, your son, your daughter, your neighbour, or your co-worker. That’s who you’re protecting having this mask on. And it should be viewed as a patriotic duty to protect those around you.”
News of Trump’s positive test broke early last Friday morning. “Quite frankly, I wasn’t surprised,” Biden said. “The idea that Covid does not spread in proximity when you don’t have a mask on, when you’re not socially distancing, when there’s large groups of people, when you’re inside particularly but even when you’re outside, that’s not surprising.”
He said presidents should be transparent about their health, although he also “can understand that, in certain circumstances related to national security, where every detail would not be made available in the middle of a particular crisis … only on the margins and only for the moment.”
Asked if he had called the president and First Lady Melania Trump, who is also infected, he replied: “No, I didn’t. I inquired whether I should do that, and the decision was that would probably be intrusive.”
The Biden campaign’s safety protocols have been very different from Trump’s laissez-faire approach. The candidate, who is tested regularly, has held small, low-key events where reporters and others are tested multiple times and required to physically distance. As Biden spoke to the media at an airport on Monday, his wife, Jill, pulled him back to ensure he was standing six feet away.
Biden shared a debate stage with Trump less than a week ago but the two did not shake hands and remained more than six feet apart. Biden, who is 77 and has since tested negative, said he was not worried about his own safety but was perturbed to see Trump’s family and staff eschewing masks in the audience.
“It was a little disconcerting to look out and see that, his whole section, no one had masks on, while my wife was sitting further down, had a mask on; the people with us had masks on. I didn’t quite get that.”
The debate was widely described as the worst in US political history because of Trump’s constant hectoring and interrupting;. Biden one point demanded, “Will you shut up, man?” and at another called Trump a “clown”. Subsequently Biden’s national lead over Trump jumped to 14 percentage points in an NBC News/ WSJ poll.
“I was trying to figure out how I could possibly have him respect the debate, respect the evening, respect the moderator, and get us an opportunity to speak,” Biden recalled. “The one thing that became absolutely clear, he didn’t want to answer any questions. He did not want to talk about substance.
“If you notice, not one single time that I can recall did he offer a substantive answer or criticism related to a policy matter. It was all invective. It was all personal. It was all things that had nothing to do with whether you’re going to change these people’s lives for the better. And I did get very frustrated. I did get frustrated. And I should have said, this is a clownish undertaking, instead of calling him a clown.”
“But the fact is, I will be very honest with you. I think it was embarrassing for the nation to see the president of the United States just hectoring like he did, and everything was about a personal attack.”
Audience questions ranged from whether the police should be defunded to the claim that Biden would enable socialism. With a reference to Senator Bernie Sanders, he said: “Look, I’m the guy that ran against a socialist. Remember I got in trouble through the whole [primary] campaign: Joe Biden is too centrist, too moderate, to straightforward … there’s not one single syllable I’ve ever said that could lead you to believe I was a socialist or a communist.”
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: ‘Masks matter’: Joe Biden reminds Trump that face covering is there to protect others | US news