WASHINGTON – Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden said Monday widespread testing is the only path to reopen the nation’s economy, arguing the “economy isn’t a light switch” that can simply be turned on.
Biden urged caution on reopening the country in a Washington Post op-ed that accused President Donald Trump of dividing Americans over the pandemic rather than preparing the nation to safely return to normal.
The former vice president said the economy will not get back to full strength if the number of new cases is still rising or plateauing and people still don’t feel safe to return to normal activities. He pointed to Georgia, which has experienced 92% fewer patrons at restaurants than normal in the two weeks since the state’s dine-in restaurants were allowed to reopen April 27.
Biden’s position is in sharp contrast to Trump, who has pinned his reelection hopes on the nation’s ability to quickly reopen even as coronavirus cases still rise. Trump offered support to activists who protested state stay-at-home orders, and on Monday, he tweeted, “The Democrats are moving slowly, all over the USA, for political purposes. They would wait until November 3rd if it were up to them. Don’t play politics. Be safe, move quickly!”
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A new Gallup poll released Monday found 73% of Americans believe it is “very important” that there be a significant reduction of new COVID-19 cases or deaths before returning to their normal activities. Ninety-two percent of Democrats said it’s “very important,” but only 55% of Republicans agreed.
A smaller percentage of Americans, 61%, said it’s “very important” to have widespread testing to monitor the coronavirus before resuming their normal activities. That includes 87% of Democrats and 60% of independents, but just 30% of Republicans.
Biden said “people need confidence” to return to normal and that the solution “isn’t a mystery.” It’s the production and distribution of adequate testing, he said, as well as protocols that are consistent with the guidance of public health experts.
“Doing so would speed up the reopening process considerably and make it a whole lot more effective,” Biden said. He added the White House is “fully aware this is the right path,” noting that staff members who interact with Trump receive daily tests.
The White House tightened its own coronavirus precautions after two aides tested positive for coronavirus – a personal valet for Trump and Katie Miller, an aide to Vice President Mike Pence.
“They knew exactly how to make the Oval Office safe and operational, and they put in the work to do it,” Biden said. “They just haven’t put in that same work for the rest of us.
“If Trump and his team understand how critical testing is to their safety – and they seem to, given their own behavior – why are they insisting that it’s unnecessary for the American people?”
Former US Vice President and Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden speaks at a press event in Wilmington, Delaware, on March 12, 2020.Trump campaign fires back
Researchers at Harvard’s Global Health Institute estimate the U.S. needs to conduct more than 900,000 tests daily to effectively trace new outbreaks. More than 9 million coronavirus tests have so far been conducted in the U.S., according to The Covid Tracking Project, but the daily is average is only around 300,000
Nearly one-third of governors said in April their states lacked sufficient supplies to conduct enough testing in their states to reopen their economies, though Trump has touted the number of overall tests the U.S. has conducted.
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In a statement to USA TODAY, Tim Murtaugh, communications director for the Trump campaign, accused Biden of continuing to “lob political duds from his basement in a desperate search for relevance.” He defended Trump’s leadership during the coronavirus crisis and said the U.S. is “leading the world in testing.”
“The President also knows that we cannot allow our economy to lie dormant indefinitely, as that would lead to its own massive set of problems,” Murtaugh said. “We must reopen the economy as soon as it is safely possible in order to get the country moving again. If anyone is dividing America, it is Joe Biden, who sits on the sidelines and offers nothing but criticism as he attempts to undermine Americans’ confidence in the response to the virus.”
In his op-ed, Biden said that instead of unifying the country to accelerate its public health response to the coronavirus outbreak, Trump has reverted to a “familiar strategy” of deflecting blame and sowing division. He accused Trump of hoping to divide Americans into two campus: Democrats hoping to “keep America grounded” and Republicans trying to “liberate the economy.”
Biden called it a “childish” tactic. He said the truth is everyone wants to reopen as soon as possible but that governors haven’t gotten the tools to do so.
Marc Short, chief of staff for Vice President Mike Pence, talks with Katie Miller, Pence’s press secretary, as President Donald Trump and Pence as participate in a Fox News Virtual Town Hall at the White House on March 24, 2020.
Reach Joey Garrison on Twitter @joeygarrison.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Coronavirus: Joe Biden urges caution on reopenings, slams Trump