During the one and only vice presidential debate for the 2020 presidential elections, nominee Kamala Harris attacked Vice President Mike Pence quickly — and often — how he and the Trump administration have handled the coronavirus pandemic.
The Trump administration had forfeited its right to reelection because of its handling of coronavirus, Harris said during the evening debate.
The debate was held Wednesday night on October 7, 2020, moderated by USA Today reporter Susan Page and located at a performing arts theater called Kingsbury Hall in Salt Lake City, Utah.
The debaters were separated by plexiglass and separated by 12 feet to observe as many of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines around COVID-19. The debate follows the announcement of nearly a dozen Republican officials and members of Trump’s cabinet contracting coronavirus, including President Trump himself; Trump’s wife, Melania; former New Jersey governor Chris Christie; campaign manager Bill Stepien; White House advisors Stephen Miller and Hope Hicks; Senators Thom Tillis and Mike Lee; former advisor Kellyanne Conway; and press secretary Kayleigh McEnany.
According to a poll released by FiveThirtyEight, 65.8% of Americans are either somewhat or very concerned that they or someone they know will be infected with the coronavirus. That same poll found that the majority of Americans, 56.6%, disapprove of Trump’s response to coronavirus.
Many political pundits noted the debate’s historical nature as Kamala Harris stepped to the podium as one of the first women of color to be part of a major presidential ticket.
‘They Knew & They Covered It Up’: Harris
At the outset, Page asked Harris what the Biden administration would do differently as several states have seen a surge.
“The American people have witnessed what is the greatest failure of any presidential administration in our country,” Harris said before citing the statistics on the more than 200,000 people who have died, 7 million who have tested positive for coronavirus and one in five businesses that have closed.
“They were informed that it is lethal in consequence, that it is airborne, that it would affect people … and they knew what it was happening and they didn’t tell you,” she said, pointing to the camera. “They knew and they covered it up.”
She said that contact tracing, testing and vaccinations would be the main priorities under a Biden administration. “This administration has forfeited their right to reelection,” she said of the Trump administration, because of the coronavirus response.
“Our nation has gone through a very challenging time this year, but I want the people to know that on the very first day, Donald Trump has put the health of the American people first,” Pence said, going on to cite Trump suspending travel from China. “That decision alone bought us invaluable time,” he said, adding that he believes it saved hundreds of thousands of lives.
He also said they began starting the development of a vaccine in February and promised tens of thousands of doses of a vaccine before the end of the year. Pence ended his comments by saying that the Trump administration had already implemented much of what was under the Biden plan, adding, “It looks a little like plagiarism, which Joe Biden knows a little something about.”
Harris responded by saying, “Whatever the vice president is claiming their administration has done, it wasn’t enough.” She also went after Pence’s defense of Trump’s downplaying of the virus.
Here is the Biden/Harris Plan to Deal With Coronavirus
As part of the Democratic ticket’s coronavirus plan, they have pledged to “Stop the political theater and willful misinformation that has heightened confusion and discrimination” and “(e)nsure that public health decisions are made by public health professionals and not politicians.”
On their campaign website, Harris and Biden propose that their plan would involve using science, public health officials and transparency to bring the pandemic under control and “restore trust” to the government. They advertise a seven-point plan.
The website noted that the first of the plan would address testing and it would include doubling the number of drive-through testing sites, helping produce in-home and instant tests, creating a Pandemic Testing Board responsible for producing and distributing tests and develop a U.S. Public Health Job Corps of 100,000 local and organization-affiliated Americans to pursue contact tracing.
The second point of the plan, according to the website, would focus on implement the Defense Production Act toward personal protective equipment (PPE) as well as to ensure America has a self-sustaining stock of PPE. The third point focuses on creating national guidance on how schools and small businesses are supposed to safely handle the pandemic.
The remainder of the plan includes spending $25 billion in vaccine manufacturing; increasing a focus on vulnerable communities by establishing a COVID-19 Racial and Ethnic Disparities Task Force (that would transition to a permanent Infectious Disease Racial Disparities Task Force); creating a Nationwide Pandemic Dashboard; increasing the numbers of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; and requiring mask mandates on a state and local levels.
Trump Called Pence’s Leadership of the Coronavirus Task Force ‘Incredible’
Trump announced in late February that Pence was going to lead the White House’s Coronavirus Task Force, saying, “Mike is going to be in charge, and Mike will report back to me. He’s got a certain talent for this,” Politico reported.
Trump has continuously praised the former governor of Indiana’s since appointing him. During White House remarks delivered on April 22, Trump said, “As part of the effort, the White House Task Force, headed up by Mike, who has done incredible — I’ll say it every time. I’ll say it to anybody that wants to listen: Mike Pence has done an incredible job.”
According to NPR, Pence has done his work as the leader of the task force mainly behind the scenes. For example, Pence noted that he had been given only eight hours during coronavirus press briefings while Trump had spoken for 30 hours by April 29. However, NPR also reported that Pence had diligently conducted individual check-ins with governors hit by the pandemic, regardless of their party.
Washington governor Jay Inslee said that Pence was responsive and available. “He has responded to my questions in a timely fashion. He’s called me. We’ve had quite a number of conversations. And I think that he’s been very helpful to the process. Now, he’s not been able to solve all of our concerns, obviously,” Inslee said.
During a rose garden speech held on September 28, Pence said that 150 million rapid point-of-care tests had been distributed throughout the country, 100 million tests would be distributed during that week and the strategic national stockpile went from 15,000 to 150,000 ventilators under his watch.