WILMINGTON, Del. — Joe Biden on Tuesday opened a new round of attacks on President Trump and his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, assailing him for his continued failure to protect the American people from the virus, even as the number of new cases continues to surge in many parts of the country.
In a speech in Wilmington, Del., Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee, said that “we need a president,” not a “cheerleader,” as he laced into Trump. Biden delivered his address at a lectern inside a high school gym, flanked by a pair of teleprompters and in front of an American flag.
Before the speech, the Biden campaign released an updated plan for fighting the coronavirus, given “the current circumstances we face as a result of President Trump’s persistent failures.”
The plan said that “minutes after he is declared the winner of the election,” Biden would call Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, and ask him to work for Biden just as he has worked for past presidents.
“Dr. Fauci will have full access to the Oval Office and an uncensored platform to speak directly to the American people — whether delivering good news or bad,” the plan said.
The plan addresses issues like improving testing and tracing, supplying personal protective equipment, developing a vaccine, and reopening the economy. In his speech, Biden encouraged the president “to adopt this plan in its entirety.”
Biden, the former vice president, has made only sporadic in-person appearances since the pandemic upended Americans’ daily routines, and his campaign is refraining from holding rallies with large crowds that are typically a staple of the campaign trail.
He has repeatedly criticized Trump over his response to the crisis, and this month, he laid out an eight-part plan for reopening the economy.
As of Tuesday, more than 126,000 people have died of the virus in the United States alone and more than 2.6 million people nationwide have been infected.
Biden’s remarks came less than a week after he delivered a speech in Lancaster, Pa., in which he excoriated Trump for, among other things, having said at a rally that he had ordered a slowdown of coronavirus testing.
Concerns over the pandemic response have also spilled into the ongoing and fractious debate over health care. Biden has sought to draw sharp contrasts between his desire to expand health care coverage and the Trump administration’s legal effort to get the Affordable Care Act overturned.
Trump has staunchly defended his handling of the pandemic and has, at various times, claimed that the virus will fade away and that the spike in cases was a result of increased testing. He and his administration have insisted on reopening the economy rapidly, even as concerns about viral spread have persisted.
And the spike in cases in recent weeks in states like Florida, Texas, and California has forced the political leaders of those states to pause their reopenings and close down businesses like bars that had previously been allowed to restart operations.
A poll conducted this month by The New York Times and Siena College showed that seniors in battleground states — a key voting bloc that is both essential to the president’s reelection prospects and is most at risk of becoming seriously ill or dying because of the virus — disapprove of Trump’s handling of the pandemic by 7 percentage points, 52 percent to 45 percent. Those voters overwhelmingly also said the federal government should prioritize containing the pandemic over reopening the economy.
The Times poll also found Biden leading Trump by 14 percentage points nationwide and by at least 6 points in key battleground states.
Amid the pandemic, the country has also been gripped by a national reckoning over racial justice and inequality following the killing last month of George Floyd, a Black man who died after a white police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes.
Biden used what was his first formal speech out in public since mid-March to address racism and police brutality, warning Americans that “we cannot let our rage consume us” while lashing into Trump for turning the country “into a battlefield riven by old resentments and fresh fears.”