August 20, 2020

FACT CHECK: Joe Biden Was Behind the Curve on the Coronavirus

Joe Biden and his supporters like to claim he “sounded the alarm” about the coronavirus in January about the coronavirus pandemic. They say he was first to lay out specific steps the Trump Administration should take to prepare. That is a total lie.

Biden held dozens and dozens of events in January and February. He spoke for hours and hours. Yet his campaign can’t point to a single statement from Biden about the need to social distance, invoke the Defense Production Act, increase production of PPE or ventilators, set up temporary hospitals, or implement travel restrictions. At the vast majority of his events, the coronavirus was not mentioned at all.

Biden’s favorite pastime is rewriting history. He’s tried to get away with it when it comes to his years-long support for the Iraq War, his lack of participation in the civil rights movement, his record of putting “kids in cages,” and his opposition to the raid to get Osama bin LadenNow he’s trying to rewrite what he said (and did not say) about the coronavirus.

Here is a detailed timeline of what Biden and his advisors said about the virus:

January 27 - Biden’s handlers published an op-ed from Biden in USA Today. According to The Washington Post Fact Checker, the op-ed “did not say… that it was a pandemic, only that it was a possibility.” Additionally, “The article itself was more of an attack on President Trump … than a detailed plan for action against a possible pandemic.”

January 27 - Top Biden advisor Ron Klain said, “I think what you’d have to say about China is, it’s been more transparent and more candid than it has been during past outbreaks.”

January 28 - Top Biden advisor Ron Klain said, “I wouldn’t [ban Chinese travelers from arriving in the U.S.]. I think that’s premature.”

January 30 – Biden Public Health Advisory Committee member Dr. Zeke Emanuel says, “Everyone in America should take a very big breath, slow down, and stop panicking and being hysterical. We are having a little too much histrionics on this… And people should remember not to panic… And the best thing we have is the seasonality. It’s going to go down as spring comes up.”

January 31 - Speaking at a campaign town hall in Iowa shortly after the Trump Administration announced restrictions on travel from China, Biden brought up the coronavirus and suggests President Trump is not acting “rationally.” “This is no time for Donald Trump’s record of hysteria and xenophobia - hysterical xenophobia - and fearmongering to lead the way instead of science,” says Biden.

February 1 - Biden tweets about the coronavirus, again accusing President Trump of “hysteria, xenophobia, and fear-mongering.”

February 1 - Speaking at a campaign town hall in Iowa, Biden brought up the coronavirus and says “we don’t know exactly where it’s going to go yet.” He again implicitly criticized President Trump’s restrictions on travel from China by saying, “Disease has no borders.”

February 6 - Biden Public Health Advisory Committee member Dr. Irwin Redlener said, “Yes, there is uncertainty, and the headlines are dramatic. But right now, the chances of any of us or anyone we know ever getting a severe, potentially lethal form of the Wuhan virus is negligible.”

February 7 - Biden Public Health Advisory Committee member Lisa Monaco said, “The good news thus far is that the coronavirus appears to be less lethal than its viral cousin SARS was in 2002 and far less lethal than Ebola was in 2014.”

February 11 - Top Biden advisor Ron Klain said, “A serious epidemic – now, the coronavirus may be that, it may not be that. The evidence suggests it's probably not that.”

February 11 - Top Biden advisor Ron Klain said, “Obviously the administration can’t do nothing. Indeed, they are far from doing nothing.”

February 13 - Top Biden advisor Ron Klain said, “We don't have a COVID-19 epidemic in the US but we are starting to see a fear epidemic. Kudos to [Mayor Bill de Blasio] (and others) for standing against that.” He was encouraging people to go shopping or out to eat in Chinatown.

February 20 - Biden Public Health Advisory Committee member Dr. Zeke Emanuel said, “many of the experts are saying, well the warm weather is going to come and, just like with the flu, the coronavirus is going to go down and may move into the Southern Hemisphere.”

February 20 - Biden Public Health Advisory Committee member Dr. Zeke Emanuel said, “Healthy young people do not seem to be at very high risk; if they get it, they typically get a mild case… In that regard it sort of behaves like the flu. A lot of us get the flu, but serious cases that cause mortality tend to be focused on the elderly and those with other chronic diseases.”

February 20 - Biden Public Health Advisory Committee member Dr. Zeke Emanuel said, “People recognized that this is a serious public health problem requiring serious attention and that it could become a much more serious health issue. But, at the moment, most people are thinking that there may be a bit of an overreaction by many, maybe even our own country. If you look at the numbers dispassionately, there are just over 1,000 cases outside of China. Half of them are on that cruise ship in Japan. So, considering the world's population of more than 7 billion people, that’s not a lot.”

February 27 - Top Biden advisor Ron Klain said, “Here’s one more thing everyone should do. They should, tonight, go down to Chinatown in their city and buy dinner or go shopping there. What we see inevitably, what we’re seeing already, is … people staying away out of needless fears about coronavirus.”

February 29 - Biden Public Health Advisory Committee member Dr. Zeke Emanuel said, “So, the public, running out and getting a mask is not going to help.”

March 9 - Biden held an in-person rally indoors in Michigan.

March 12 - Biden Public Health Advisory Committee member Lisa Monaco replied “no” when asked if President Trump’s 30-day ban on travel from Europe is the right move.

March 12 - Biden tweeted, “A wall will not stop the coronavirus. Banning all travel from Europe — or any other part of the world — will not stop it.”

March 15 – Appearing on CNN, Biden senior advisor Symone Sanders encouraged people to vote in person on March 17.

March 18 - In response to President Trump’s tweet about his “very early decision to close the ‘borders’ from China,” Biden tweeted, “Stop the xenophobic fear-mongering.”

April 2 - Biden says the upcoming Wisconsin primary could include in-person voting because “a convention having tens of thousands of people in one arena is very different than having people walk into a polling booth with accurate spacing, six to ten feet apart, one at a time going in, and having machines scrubbed down… I think you could hold the election as well dealing with mail-in ballots and same-day registration… I think it's possible to do both.”

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