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Pandemic in the Spotlight at Disorderly VP Debate

The coronavirus pandemic was front and center Wednesday night as Vice President Mike Pence and Democratic vice presidential nominee Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) engaged in their sole debate of the presidential campaign. The event was less fractious than last week’s presidential debate, but still marked by interruptions and candidates speaking beyond their allotted time.

Differing Views on the Pandemic

“The American people have witnessed what is the greatest failure of any presidential administration in the history of our country,” Harris said. “Here are the facts: 210,000 dead people in our country in just the last several months, over 7 million people who have contracted this disease, one in five businesses closed. We’re looking at front-line workers who have been treated like sacrificial workers, and over 30 million people who in the last several months have had to file for unemployment.”

And yet, she continued, “on Jan. 28th, the vice president and the president were informed about the nature of this pandemic — they were informed that it’s lethal in consequence, that it’s airborne, that it will infect young people, and that it will be contracted because it’s airborne. And they knew what was happening and they didn’t tell you. … They knew and they covered it up. The president said it was a hoax; they minimized the seriousness of it … and in spite of all that today, they still don’t have a plan.”


Vice presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) said the Trump administration had forfeited its right to reelection based on its handling of the coronavirus pandemic. (Photo courtesy C-SPAN livestream)

Harris added that the Biden-Harris plan involves a national strategy for contact tracing and testing, and for administration of a vaccine “and making sure it will be free and fair for all … We need to save our country, and Joe Biden is the best leader to do that, and frankly, this administration has forfeited their right to reelection based on this.”

“A Little Bit Like Plagiarism”

Pence admitted that “our nation has gone through a very challenging time this year,” but added, “I want the American people to know from the very first day, President Donald Trump put the health of America first. Before there were more than five cases in the U.S. — all people who had returned from China — President Donald Trump did what no other American president had done — he suspended all travel from China, the second largest economy in the world. Joe Biden opposed that decision; he said it was xenophobic and hysterical, but I can tell you from having led the coronavirus task force, that decision alone by President Trump bought us invaluable time to stand up the greatest national mobilization since World War II, and I believe it saved hundreds of thousands of American lives.”

With that additional time, “we were able to reinvent testing — more than 115 million tests have been done to date,” Pence continued. “We were able to seed the delivery of