Biden: Trump has left US unprepared to respond to epidemic

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Former Vice President Joe Biden wrote Monday that President Trump is the “worst possible person” to deal with the outbreak of coronavirus. 

Biden, a leading Democratic presidential candidate, wrote an op-ed in USA Today calling out Trump for moves he said have weakened global health security and touting his own response to the Ebola outbreak in 2014. 

“Trump’s demonstrated failures of judgment and his repeated rejection of science make him the worst possible person to lead our country through a global health challenge,” Biden wrote. 

Biden pointed to Trump’s call during the Ebola outbreak in 2014 to shut down flights from the affected areas in Africa.

“President Obama — close down the flights from Ebola infected areas right now, before it is too late! What the hell is wrong with you?” Trump tweeted then.  

Biden said Trump favored “reactionary travel bans that would only have made things worse.”

Instead, he touted the Obama administration’s “evidence-based response,” including deploying the U.S. military to affected areas in Africa to help with the effort to fight the virus. 

The response to coronavirus has not arrived at a major domestic political fight in the United States yet, the way Ebola did in 2014, but Biden is taking an opportunity to criticize what he views as failures in the Trump administration’s preparations. 

As coronavirus spreads in China, and five U.S. cases have been confirmed, Trump has reassured the public that his administration is on top of the situation. 

“So far, Trump has blithely tweeted that ‘it will all work out well,’” Biden wrote. “Yet the steps he has taken as president have only weakened our capacity to respond.”

Biden pointed to proposed cuts in Trump’s budgets to agencies like the National Institutes of Health and the 2018 departure of the White House official in charge of responding to outbreaks.

“I will rebuild public trust, make sure we have dedicated resources to help us respond to crises quickly, and better harness the capabilities of the private sector to protect the American people,” Biden wrote. “Our national security requires nothing less.”

Sarah Matthews, a Trump campaign spokeswoman, hit back at Biden’s criticism on Monday by pointing to a 2009 incident when the Obama White House had to walk back comments Biden made advising people not to travel on airplanes during the swine flu outbreak. 

“Joe Biden’s track record on appropriate reactions to outbreaks is about as poor as his track record on almost everything else,” Matthews said. “Just take the swine flu outbreak in 2009, when Biden caused unnecessary panic by telling the public to avoid planes and subways and the Obama White House had to issue an apology.” 

“President Trump is on top of the situation and the administration has taken all the necessary precautions,” she added.

This story was updated at 2:45 p.m.

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