Joe Biden condemned President Trump’s response to the coronavirus pandemic on Wednesday, saying that if Mr. Trump and his administration had “done their jobs,” more schools would be able to reopen to in-person learning this fall.
“If President Trump and his administration had done their jobs early on in this crisis, American schools would be open. And they’d be open safely,” Biden said in a speech in Wilmington, Delaware. “Donald Trump and [Education Secretary Betsy] DeVos have not stepped up.”
“Mr. President, where are you? Where are you? Why aren’t you working on this?” Biden said, making a personal entreaty to the president. He urged Mr. Trump to “get off Twitter” and invite congressional leaders to the Oval Office.
“You always talk about your ability to negotiate. Negotiate a deal — a deal for somebody other than yourself,” Biden said.
Biden said there should be “universal guidance” for reopening schools and daycare centers, and added that the federal government should provide assistance to parents whose children are forced to undergo remote learning.
Biden said that he believed that it is impossible to get the economy back on track unless the coronavirus is mitigated.
“The idea that you’re able to get the economy back on track without getting COVID under control, it’s completely counterintuitive,” Biden said. “There’s going to be no need in my view to be able to shut down the whole economy.”
He also said he would pressure governors and local officials to impose a mask mandate, saying there’s a “question under the Constitution” about whether a president can institute a national mandate. Biden has previously said he supports making wearing a mask a national requirement for three months.
“Why do you wear a mask? To protect your neighbor? To keep someone else from getting sick and maybe dying. I call that patriotic. This is the United States of America. Every generation has made sacrifices to help others in moments of crisis,” Biden said.
Biden also took questions from reporters, his first time doing so since he formally accepted the Democratic nomination for president last month.
Biden’s campaign also announced on Wednesday that he would be traveling to Kenosha, Wisconsin on Thursday. On Tuesday, Mr. Trump visited the city, which has been roiled by protests since the police shooting of a Black man and the deaths of two people by a suspected vigilante shooter at a subsequent demonstration. Biden said that local leaders and members of Congress had asked him to come to Kenosha.
“There have been overwhelming requests that I do come,” he told reporters. “What we want to do is we’ve got to heal, we’ve got to put things together, bring people together. My purpose in going is to do just that, to be a positive influence.”
He also said he would be meeting with local community and business leaders and law enforcement.
The Democratic presidential nominee drew a contrast between himself and Mr. Trump, whom he has accused of fanning the flames of dissension. Earlier this week, the president declined to denounce suspected vigilante shooter Kyle Rittenhouse, the 17-year-old who has been charged with killing two people during protests in Wisconsin.
“I wouldn’t incite violence. I would condemn it when it occurred,” Biden said, adding that he supported law enforcement and believes that the majority of law enforcement officers are good people. “What I’d be doing is I’d be bringing people together in the White House right now,” he said.
Mr. Trump did not meet with the family of Jacob Blake, the seven times in the back by a police officer. His family has been vocal in denouncing violent protests since Jacob Blake was shot on August 23. The 29-year-old father of six remains hospitalized and is paralyzed from his injuries, his family lawyers have said.
It is unclear whether Biden will meet with the Blake family while in Kenosha.
First published on September 2, 2020 / 12:48 PM
© 2020 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.Grace Segers
Grace Segers is a politics reporter for CBS News D