Senator Bernie Sanders criticized President Trump's response to the coronavirus crisis in a speech on Thursday, announcing his plan to address the pandemic shortly after former Vice President Joe Biden his.
Sanders slammed the "incompetence and recklessness" of Mr. Trump's response to the crisis, and said the president needed to declare a national emergency. He also urged Congress to move forward "in a bipartisan matter," as Mr. Trump would not do enough to stop the spread.
"We have a major, major crisis and we must act accordingly. Therefore, it is a absolute moral imperative that our response as a government, as a society, as a business community and as individual citizens meet the enormity of this crisis," Sanders said.
The presidentfrom the Oval Office on Wednesday night, announcing new restrictions on travel from Europe in a speech that did little to alleviate concerns about the administration's handling of the virus. Markets plunged again on Thursday, with the Dow dropping by as much as 2,200 points during trading.
Speaking before reporters in Burlington, Vermont, a solemn Sanders urged Americans not to feel isolated even if they are self-quarantined or working alone, because "now is the time for solidarity."
"If there ever was a time in the modern history of our country, when we are in this together, this is that moment," Sanders said. "It is an absolute moral imperative that our response as a government, as a society, as a business community and as individual citizens meet the enormity of this crisis."
He called on the White House to be more transparent about the availability of tests and the spread of the virus.
"The American people deserve transparency, something this administration has fought day after day," Sanders said. "Unfortunately, in this time of international crisis, it is clear to me at least that we have an administration that is largely incompetent."
Sanders pivoted to advocating for Medicare for All, a key plank of his campaign. He argued that many Americans are not able to afford treatment or testing because the government doesn't provide health care coverage for everyone. He focused much of his speech on the need to care for the most vulnerable members of American society, such as the elderly, unemployed and people requiring food assistance.
"When you are uninsured or underinsured you hesitate about getting the medical care you need because you cannot afford to get that medical care," he said. "The result is that millions of our people cannot afford to go to a doctor let alone pay for a coronavirus test."
Sanders gave his speech shortly after Bidenabout how he would respond to the coronavirus as president. In his address, Biden revealed an extensive proposal for how he would address the public health aspect of the virus as well as its economic impact.
"No president can promise to prevent future outbreaks. But I can promise you this: When I'm president, we will be better prepared, respond better and recover better," Biden said.
The candidates' remarks came days before Sunday's Democratic debate, which has been moved from Arizona to Washington, D.C., because of concerns over the virus. Sanders trails Biden in the delegate count for the Democratic nomination, but vowed to remain in the race earlier this week.
Meanwhile, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi introduced a legislative package with measures including free testing, paid emergency sick leave and increasing funds for food security programs and Medicaid. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced Thursday that a planned recess for next week would be canceled in order to address the crisis.
Cara Korte contributed reporting.