President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden unsurprisingly presented vastly different views of the status of the coronavirus pandemic in the U.S. during the first general election debate Tuesday night.
Trump attempted to blame China for the outbreak, saying that his administration has done a “great job” responding to the pandemic. He claimed that if Biden were in charge, millions instead of hundreds of thousands would have died across the nation.
“We’ve done a great job,” Trump said. “But I tell you, Joe, you could never have done the job we’ve done. You don’t have it in your blood.”
Biden, meanwhile, tried to paint Trump as an uncaring leader with no plan.
“Forty thousand people a day are contracting [COVID-19]. In addition to that, about between 750 and 1,000 people a day are dying,” Biden said. “When he was presented with that number he said, ‘it is what it is.’ Well, it is what it is because you are who you are.”
Biden’s numbers are correct according to government statistics compiled by USAFacts. While cases and deaths are below what they were during their previous peaks, they are still elevated.
Like much of the debate, the candidates frequently talked over each other and laced their answers with insults and misstatements.
The two clashed on vaccines and mask wearing, with Trump saying that vaccine development is a “very political thing.” The president acknowledged his disagreements with scientists in his own administration, including his past clash with Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over the vaccine timelines and the effectiveness of wearing face coverings.
Trump repeated his claim that a vaccine announcement could come in just weeks, though public health experts have said it will take some time to be made available to the public. He also said it would be delivered to the public “right away.”
Biden appeared to address viewers as he countered: “Do you believe for a moment what he’s telling you, in light of all the lies he’s told you about the whole issue relating to [COVID-19]?”
The former vice president cited comments Trump made to journalist Bob Woodward back in February that the virus is “deadly stuff” and “more deadly than even your strenuous flu.” Trump has repeatedly tried to minimize the backlash he received over his statements to Woodward related to the pandemic.
Trump was also questioned on his view of wearing masks to help prevent the spread of the virus. He said he thinks masks are OK, adding that he puts one on when he feels he needs it. However, Trump earlier this month claimed that masks are a “mixed bag.”
Biden said masks “make a big difference,” citing statements from Redfield who has said they are “the most important, powerful public health tool we have.”
The U.S. topped 7 million cases of the coronavirus and 200,000 deaths last week. It’s the most reported infections and fatalities of any country. Public health officials have sounded the alarm over troubling trends in the midwest, which is the only region seeing sustained growth in its infections, according to data from The COVID Tracking Project.