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Coronavirus takes center stage in vice presidential debate

The coronavirus took center stage at the vice presidential debate Wednesday, as Democratic vice presidential nominee Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisHarris says she has 'not yet' spoken to Pence Kamala Harris, Stacey Abrams among nominees for Time magazine's 2020 Person of the Year Mexican president breaks with other world leaders, refusing to acknowledge Biden win until election is finalized MORE (D-Calif.) ripped into the Trump administration's handling of the pandemic in response to the debate moderator's first question.

Asked what a Biden administration would do to combat the spread of the virus, Harris lit into the Trump White House, arguing it was responsible for a calamity that has taken more than 210,000 lives in this country. 

"The American people have witnessed what is the greatest failure of any presidential administration in the history of our country,” Harris told moderator Susan Page of USA Today.

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“Here’s the thing, on Jan. 28 the vice president and the president were informed of the nature of this pandemic,” Harris said, looking directly at the camera.

“They knew what was happening, and they didn’t tell you,” she said. “Can you imagine if you knew on Jan. 28 as opposed to March 13, what they knew, what you might have done to prepare? They knew and they covered it up.” 

Pence defended the administration, saying millions of lives could have been cost without the president's actions.

Pence cited Trump’s move to suspend travel into the United States.

“Senator, Joe BidenJoe BidenHarris says she has 'not yet' spoken to Pence Kamala Harris, Stacey Abrams among nominees for Time magazine's 2020 Person of the Year Obama: Republican Party members believe 'white males are victims' MORE opposed that decision. He said it was xenophobic and hysterical,” Pence said, addressing Harris. “But I can tell you having led the White House coronavirus task force if that decision alone bought us invaluable time to stand up the greatest national mobilization since World War II.”

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Pence jabbed at Biden’s coronavirus plan, citing a plagiarism controversy Biden was involved in the 1980s.

“The reality is, when you look at the Biden plan, it reads an awful lot like what President TrumpDonald John TrumpUSAID administrator tests positive for COVID-19 Kamala Harris, Stacey Abrams among nominees for Time magazine's 2020 Person of the Year DOJ appeals ruling preventing it from replacing Trump in E. Jean Carroll defamation lawsuit MORE and I and our task force have been doing every step of the way,” Pence said. “it looks a little bit like plagiarism which is something Joe Biden knows a little bit about."

The debate comes as the number of coronavirus cases in Trump and Pence’s orbit continues to grow less than a week after Trump himself tested positive for the virus.

Pence also defended the Sept. 26 Rose Garden event where Trump formally announced his nomination to the Supreme Court of Judge Amy Coney Barrett. Several people who attended the event have been diagnosed with the coronavirus. Many of those in attendance were not wearing masks and were seen hugging and shaking hands.

“That Rose Garden event, there’s been a great deal of speculation about it,” Pence said. “Many of the people who were at that event, Susan, were actually tested for coronavirus, and it was an outdoor event which all of our scientists regularly and routinely advise.”