As the coronavirus pandemic continues to spread rapidly throughout the country, Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden strongly criticized President Donald Trump for suggesting on Tuesday that Americans might be able to go back to work by Easter.
Biden, who served as vice president under Barack Obama and is the front-runner for the Democratic nomination, was asked about Trump’s Easter comment, which the president made during a virtual town hall with Fox News, during a CNN interview later that afternoon.
“He should stop talking,” Biden said firmly, “and start listening to the medical experts. Talk about having an economic crisis; you want an economic crisis? Watch this spike. Watch the number of dead go up,” the Democratic contender warned.
Noting that everyone wants the economy to reopen as soon as possible, Biden urged the government to deal with the “medical side” of the pandemic “immediately.” The former vice president noted that Trump is “not responsible for the coronavirus” but argued that the president was responsible for failing to take preventive steps recommended by health experts when the virus was first detected in the U.S. back in January.
“By Easter he wants everyone back to work? What’s he talking about?” Biden asked with incredulity.
State and municipal governments across the country have ordered schools, museums, restaurants, bars, gyms and other businesses closed, while also canceling all public events, in an effort to curb the rapid spread of the coronavirus. Public health experts, citing data from other countries, have noted that this is currently the only effective way to combat the virus, despite the economic fallout from the measures.
While Trump last week seemed to be on board with implementing the stringent social-distancing measures after weeks of downplaying the virus’ threat, the president is now expressing frustration with the economy being shut down. He has suggested repeatedly over the past couple of days that people should return to work soon, regardless of the ballooning number of confirmed cases.
“We’re opening up this incredible country. Because we have to do that. I would love to have it open by Easter,” Trump said during the Fox News town hall.
“I would love to have that. It’s such an important day for other reasons, but I’d love to make it an important day for this. I would love to have the country opened up and raring to go by Easter.”
Even some Republicans have been critical of Trump’s eagerness to have people go back to work. Maryland’s GOP governor, Larry Hogan, told CNN on Tuesday morning that the messaging from the White House was “pretty confusing.” In his state, he said, officials were relying on the advice and information provided by scientists and doctors.
“Most people think that we are weeks away from the peak, if not months,” Hogan said. “And that’s the advice we’re getting from the smart folks at John Hopkins and [the National Institutes of Health] and University of Maryland and places like that.”
Last week, Trump and the federal government issued significantly stricter social-distancing recommendations after receiving a dire scientific report that as many as 2.2 million people could die in the U.S. from the virus’ outbreak if no action was taken. But Trump has now begun suggesting that the strict policies to prevent the virus’ spread may not be necessary for as long as health experts have advised.
The U.S. now has more than 50,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus, the third highest number of infections of any country. Some health experts have predicted that the U.S. is on course to surpass Italy and China, with the World Health Organization suggesting the nation will become the new global epicenter for the pandemic.