For months, Joseph R. Biden Jr. has gone to great lengths to model responsible behavior in the coronavirus era. He wears masks in public. He does not hold crowded rallies. When he gives speeches, reporters sit at a distance from one another, with white circles on the ground to mark their turf.
These actions have so far helped keep Mr. Biden healthy and able to continue campaigning while President Trump, who mocked masks and held large events, is now hospitalized with Covid-19.
But beyond the public examples of safety precautions, Mr. Biden’s health protocols have remained largely under wraps, with his campaign saying little about what steps it is taking to protect the 77-year-old Democratic nominee.
His aides will not answer questions about whether Mr. Biden is tested daily; they say simply that he is tested “regularly.” Until this weekend, they had promised to inform the public only if he had a confirmed positive case. Then, on Saturday night, after two days of refusing to provide details about Mr. Biden’s testing procedures, the campaign committed to releasing the results of all of his tests. He tested negative on Sunday, the campaign said.
Transparency has taken on new significance in the presidential race given the conflicting information about Mr. Trump’s health and the fact that his Democratic rival, who is also in an age group that is particularly susceptible to Covid-19, was exposed to the president during their 90-minute debate on Tuesday. Mr. Biden, who is ahead in national polls and many battleground state surveys, still faces the possibility of a positive test; he is continuing to campaign rather than quarantine, and his campaign has been cagey about his health protocols.
The questions about Mr. Biden’s health come as he is confronting an unprecedented political reality: He would be the oldest president ever elected if he wins in November, and he faces the daily personal risks of a pandemic that has killed more than 209,000 people in the United States. Mr. Trump’s diagnosis, and the apparent health threat he posed during a debate where he was often talking or shouting over Mr. Biden, are forcing the Biden campaign to grapple with its own next steps and disclosures regarding the health of the Democratic nominee.
For Mr. Biden, being fully transparent with the public would not just be the ethical approach, but also a smart one, said Dr. Kelly Michelson, director of the Center for Bioethics and Medical Humanities at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.
“It engenders trust in the community, it helps allay fears and concerns, and I also don’t really see why you would not be transparent about what’s happening,” she said. “I think that it’s important that the public knows what’s going on.”