Biden kicked off that portion of the debate off by rattling off the death and infection rates for COVID-19 in the United States.
“[A]bout between 750-1,000 people a day are dying. When he was presented with that number he said it is what it is,” Biden said, referring to an interview Trump gave in August.
“Well, it is what it is because you are who you are. That’s why it is. The president has no plan. He hasn’t laid out anything. He knew all the way back in February how serious this crisis was. He knew it was a deadly disease. What did he do? He’s on tape as acknowledging he knew it. He said he didn’t tell us or give people warning of it because he didn’t want to panic the American people.
You don’t panic,” Biden added, pointing at the camera. “He panicked.”
Biden also pointed out that the U.S. had a disproportionate share of the world’s coronavirus deaths when compared with its population. At one point, he asked Americans how many of them lost their parents or had an empty seat at the kitchen table because of COVID-19.
“You would have lost far more people,” Trump said in response.
Biden’s comments reflected ongoing Democratic arguments that Trump concealed and ignored the true nature of the coronavirus, keeping the government from acting quickly enough to prevent thousands of deaths this year.
The White House has maintained that Trump did not downplay the severity of the virus, although he told veteran journalist Bob Woodward that he tried to play it down to avoid panicking the American people.
Trump responded to Biden’s various criticisms by highlighting how, early during the virus’ outbreak, he banned travel from Europe and China.
“So, if we would have listened to you, the country would have been left wide open, millions of people would have died, not 200,000 – and 1 person is too much. It’s China’s fault, it should have never happened. They stopped it from going in, but it was China’s fault. And, by the way, when you talk about numbers, you don’t know how many people died in China, you don’t know how people died in Russia. You don’t know how many people died in India. They don’t exactly give you straight counts, just so you understand,” Trump said.
He added: “But if you look at what we’ve done — I closed it and you said he’s xenophobic … But my doing it early, in fact, Dr. Fauci said President Trump saved thousands of lives.”
Biden’s team has denied the former vice president opposed Trump’s travel ban. This has been disputed, although around the time of Trump announcing the ban, Biden accused Trump of “xenophobia” without explicitly referencing it.
Trump went on to tell Biden that he could have “never” done the job his administration did.
“You don’t have it in your blood,” he said.
When Biden countered that he did know how “how to do the job,” Trump accused him of performing poorly in response to the swine flu. “You were a disaster,” he said.
“14,000 people died, not 200,000,” Biden responded.