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Biden says Trump didn’t lead during coronavirus pandemic

Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden participates in a town hall with moderator ABC News anchor George Stephanopoulos at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, Thursday, Oct. 15, 2020. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden participates in a town hall with moderator ABC News anchor George Stephanopoulos at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, Thursday, Oct. 15, 2020. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster) (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

Joe Biden is opening an ABC News town hall by criticizing President Donald Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

He said Thursday that it’s “a president’s responsibility to lead” and that Trump “didn’t do that.” Biden said Trump focused too exclusively on the stock market while downplaying how the virus spread and threatened both Americans' health and the economy on the ground.

Biden also criticized Trump for not more actively engaging with Congress to pass another economic relief package for individuals and businesses.

The former vice president acknowledged that he didn’t call for widespread mask use and social distancing until the spring. But he said that was when “the science” had become clearer on how the virus spreads.

Biden repeated that he’d listen to government scientists and public health experts but said that doesn’t mean the economy has to shut down.

Biden was hedging on whether he would mandate that all Americans be vaccinated against COVID-19. He said that it would depend on the reliability of the vaccine.

He says that it would “have to have a very positive impact and how you can affect positively 85% of the American public,” and that he would likely receive the vaccine if it met that criteria.

Biden says we “should be talking about” mandating the vaccine, knowing that it’s difficult to enforce. But likewise, he says, it’s difficult to enforce a mask mandate, though scientists suggest they slow the spread.

“You can go to every governor and get them in a room,” he says. “The words of a president matter, no matter whether they’re good, bad or indifferent, they matter.”

Biden gave a winding explanation about why he should get the votes of young Black people who may not be enthusiastic about supporting him.

Biden initially touched on the criminal justice system suggesting it needed to be made “fair” and “more decent” before moving on to an assortment of economic and educational policies.

He said Black Americans need to be given tools to help generate wealth, including increased loans for Black-owned businesses and homeowners. He also said America also needs to increase its funding for schools with lower-income families and suggesting adding more school psychologists in schools. He also proposed adding $70 billion to historically Black colleges and universities.

At the end of his five-minute answer, he offered to provide “a lot more” information to the young Black man who asked the question.

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