Donald Trump attempted to use the state’s coronavirus response as an example of why people shouldn’t vote for Joe Biden during the debate on Thursday, but Biden took a different view.
President Donald Trump tried to use Pennsylvania’s response to the novel coronavirus pandemic as an example of why Americans shouldn’t vote for former Vice President Joe Biden during their debate Thursday night.
Trump claimed that a Biden presidency would guarantee another massive shutdown for the country’s economy.
“His Democrat governors—Cuomo in New York, you look at what’s going on in California, you look at Pennsylvania, North Carolina—Democrats all, they’re shut down so tight, and they’re dying,” Trump said. “And he supports all these people.”
He later added, “Take a look at what’s happening in Pennsylvania, where they had to close … We can’t let that happen. We have to open up.”
Biden argued Trump’s whole outlook was wrong.
“I don’t see red states and blue states,” Biden said. “What I see is America, United States.”
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Trump’s argument runs up against comments from his own administration’s officials, academic studies of Pennsylvania’s response, and Pennsylvanians’ reactions to Gov. Tom Wolf’s efforts.
In early September, Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House Coronavirus Coordinator visited the state and praised its response.
“We really saw that Pennsylvania, in the March and April time frame, really worked diligently, and every Pennsylvanian worked together to really decrease the number of cases,” she said.
A few months earlier, in June, data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed that Pennsylvania was one of just three states that saw its number of coronavirus cases consistently go down over 42 days. Even with the state’s recent rise in coronavirus cases, CDC data still shows Pennsylvania to have some of the lowest per capita case rates among US states and territories.
Wolf remains a popular governor after eight months of responding to the coronavirus. Rasmussen Reports shows Wolf has a 54% job approval among Pennsylvanians. The same poll had Trump with 50% job approval.
Pennsylvania was one of the first states to get hit hard by the novel coronavirus.
Wolf ordered all schools in the state to close on March 16, and he ordered residents in some of the hardest-hit counties—mostly those in the southeast region—to stay at home around the same time.
At the beginning of April, Wolf ordered all non-life-sustaining businesses to close, and asked all Pennsylvanians to stay at home unless they worked at or needed to patronize a life-sustaining business. The order originally was set to expire on April 30, but Wolf extended it.
More than 2.2 million Pennsylvanians have applied for partial or full unemployment compensation since March. Additional unemployment aid from the federal government ended in July, and Congress has not moved to extend the aid.
Wolf gradually relaxed the business closure and stay-at-home orders, county by county, as the number of coronavirus cases decreased. He has also gradually relaxed restrictions on capacity in businesses and crowd sizes at events.
Pennsylvania continues to struggle with the coronavirus pandemic. More than 1,000 residents are currently hospitalized, which is down from the 3,000 peak in April, but more than double the 422 in Sept. 22. The seven-day average number of new cases reached more than 1,500 today, which is the highest since mid-April.
Despite those numbers, Wolf on Thursday seemed confident the state wouldn’t have to close down again, pointing out that the information and tools scientists have today make it easier to control the spread of coronavirus than in the spring.
Biden responded to Trump’s allegations that he would shut down the economy by saying he would shut down the virus, and not the country.
“It’s (Trump’s) ineptitude that caused the country to shut down in large part,” Biden said, adding, “That’s why he should have been, instead of in a sand trap at his golf course, negotiating with Nancy Pelosi and the rest of the Democrats and Republicans about what to do about the acts they were passing.”
Trump had started the debate by saying that a vaccine would arrive in the coming weeks.
When pressed on whether that was a guarantee, however, Trump backed down.
“No,” he said, “It’s not a guarantee.”
Biden then responded by knocking Trump’s unfilled promises on the virus.
“This is the same fellow who told you it was going to end by Easter,” he said.
The duo repeated barbs they traded in the first debate over each other’s reactions to the pandemic. Trump touted closing the border to China, while Biden said Trump panicked over the virus and wasn’t honest with the American people.
Thursday’s debate was originally slated to be the third clash between the candidates. However, Trump walked away from the second debate after the Commission on Presidential Debates decided to make it a virtual event after Trump contracted the coronavirus.