Former Vice President Joe Biden on Wednesday sided with COVID-19 experts in cautioning against relaxing social distancing measures too quickly.
The line from the Democratic presidential contender came as he’s struggled to make his presence felt on the COVID-19 crisis.
President Donald Trump and several Democrats, including New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Biden’s opponent Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), have made themselves regularly available on live-streams and to the press. But as Biden acknowledged Wednesday, it took his campaign four days to set up his rec room for internet briefings.
Trump said Tuesday that he wanted the country to be “opened up and rarin’ to go by Easter.” Right-wing politicians and pundits have added to the chorus of voices who say, essentially, that otherwise-preventable COVID-19 deaths are worth goosing the economy.
But public health experts have cautioned that social distancing measures, including shutting down restaurants and other public gathering places, may need to continue long after mid-April in order to sufficiently “flatten the curve” of the disease and avoid overwhelming hospitals.
In a press briefing Wednesday, Biden emphasized those experts’ opinions that easing up on social distancing too early could lead to a second spike in COVID-19 infections.
“Now he’s suggesting he wants to get the country back open by Easter,” Biden said, referring to Trump. “Look, we all want to get back to normal as quickly as possible, but we have a lot to do to make that possible. We have to do it in a smart way, not to meet some arbitrary or symbolic timeline.”
“It would be a catastrophic thing to do for our people and for our economy if we sent people back to work just as we were beginning to see the impact of social distancing take hold, only to unleash a second spike in infections,” Biden added.
The former vice president said at one point during the press briefing that he was “chomping at the bit” and that he wished he was back in the Senate in order to have an impact on COVID-19 response.
He also pressed Trump to use the Defense Production Act to ensure that the national supply of ventilators and other supplies was available where the virus threatens to overwhelm local health care capacity. Trump so far has resisted using the war-time law.
“He said he’s a war-time President,” Biden said of Trump. “Well, act like one.”
Separately, asked what he would tell former Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein and other Wall Street leaders who’ve called for quickly ending social distancing guidelines, Biden said he would “urge them to the think about the science.”
“Not the science of Wall Street, the science of medicine.”
“The idea of arbitrarily setting a time — I’d like to be able to say, we’re going to be back to normal next Friday,” Biden said. “That’d be wonderful, but it can’t be arbitrary. We have to look at the recent history of what happened in other countries.”
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