Joe Biden said Monday night that people are responsible for their own risky behavior during the coronavirus pandemic — including President Trump, whose announcement late Friday that he had tested positive for the disease rocked the country.
“Anybody who contracts the virus by essentially saying masks don’t matter, social distance doesn’t matter, are responsible for what happens to them,” Biden said during an NBC News town hall in Miami.
When asked if he was surprised Trump came down with the virus, Biden said: “Quite frankly, I wasn’t surprised.”
“I’m glad he seems to be coming along pretty well. … I hope no one walks away with the message it’s not a problem. It’s a serious problem,” Biden said.
Biden also said he was not worried about his own personal safety after spending nearly two hours alongside Trump at last Tuesday’s debate, although he said he was taken aback that the president’s guests did not all appear to be wearing masks.
“I’ve been fastidious about the social distancing. I’ve been fastidious about wearing the mask. … It was a little disconcerting to see his whole section didn’t have masks on,” Biden told NBC’s Lester Holt.
The Democratic candidate also had some harsh words for Americans who refuse to wear masks.
“What is this macho thing, ‘I’m not going to wear a mask?’ What’s the deal here? Big deal, does it hurt you? Be patriotic, for God’s sake! Take care of yourself, but take care of your neighbors.”
Joe Biden at a town hall in Miami. (Andrew Harnik/AP)
Trump, who has been criticized for ignoring his own government’s advice about masks and social distancing, was released on Monday after a three-day stay at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center due to complications from COVID-19. Trump had tweeted earlier in the day that he would return to the White House that evening, telling Americans to not “be afraid of Covid.”
“I will be leaving the great Walter Reed Medical Center today at 6:30 P.M.,” Trump tweeted Monday afternoon. “Feeling really good! Don’t be afraid of Covid. Don’t let it dominate your life. We have developed, under the Trump Administration, some really great drugs & knowledge. I feel better than I did 20 years ago!”
After being discharged Monday evening, the president went to the White House balcony, took off his mask and posed for photos. More than 210,000 Americans have died since the pandemic began last spring.
Several crucial questions remain about the president’s health, in particular when he last tested negative for the virus. White House physician Dr. Sean Conley dodged a question Monday about the last time the White House knew he was virus-free.
“I don’t want to go backwards,” Conley said when asked for the date of the president’s last negative test.
The White House has been withholding many specifics of Trump’s illness, and in doing so is relying heavily on HIPAA — a law that protects patient-doctor confidentiality.
Conley has on multiple occasions avoided reporters’ questions and admitted to side-stepping prior inquiries about Trump’s use of supplemental oxygen so as to not “steer the course of the illness in another direction.” Conley, however, did not seem reluctant to share positive updates of the president’s state of being.
Earlier Monday morning, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany revealed that she tested positive for COVID-19 after several days of negative results. She joined a growing cluster of White House staffers and Republican lawmakers who have contracted the virus since last week.
Experts and critics are now questioning whether a recent Rose Garden reception to celebrate Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett helped spread the virus. At least eight attendees of that event have since tested positive for the illness, according to a count by National Public Radio.
After Trump’s diagnosis early Friday morning, the Biden campaign committed to pulling negative advertising off the airwaves. While resuming campaign travel over the weekend, Biden had appeared reluctant to answer reporters’ questions about the president before Monday’s town hall. He did, however, wish Trump and the first lady good health.
A new YahooNews/YouGov poll shows Biden leading Trump by 8 percentage points nationally.
The Trump campaign has attempted to use the president’s diagnosis as a weapon against Biden, who has tested negative at least two times since his exposure to Trump and his aides last Tuesday.
During an interview with Fox News, Trump campaign communications director Erin Perrine said that Biden lacks “first-hand experience” with the virus.
“[Trump] has talked about it all. And listen, he has experience as commander in chief, he has experience as a businessman, he has experience — now — fighting the coronavirus as an individual. Those firsthand experiences, Joe Biden, he doesn’t have those,” Perrine said on Monday.
Trump has repeatedly mocked Biden for being overly cautious since the pandemic began, accusing the former vice president of hiding in his Delaware “basement.” He has also ridiculed Biden’s proposal for mask mandates and his aversion to large rallies.
In the early months of outbreak, the Biden campaign relied heavily on digital efforts and videoconferencing to replace more traditional methods of campaigning. Biden has since done more in-person campaigning as Election Day approaches, including a swing through Miami’s Little Havana.
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