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Joseph Biden, March 12, 2020, speech on the coronavirus pandemic

This virus, those infected families that have suffered a loss, first responders and healthcare providers are putting themselves on the line as I speak for others. I’d like to thank those who are already making sacrifices to protect us, whether that’s self quarantine, self quarantining themselves or canceling events and closing campuses. Because whether or not you’re infected or know someone who is infected or have been in contact with an infected person, this is going to require a national response. Not just from our elected leaders or our public health officials, but from all of us. We must, all of us follow the guidelines of health officials and take appropriate protections to protect ourselves and critically to protect others, especially those who are most at risk for this disease.

It’s going to be making some radical changes in our personal behaviors. More frequent and more thorough hand washing, staying home from work if you’re ill, but also altering the deeply ingrained habits in our country like handshakes and hugs, avoiding any large public gatherings. That’s where earlier this week on the recommendation of officials, my campaign canceled election night rallies that we had planned to hold in Cleveland, Ohio. We’re also re-imagining the format for large crowd events we had planned in Chicago and Miami in the coming days. And we’ll continue to assess and adjust how we conduct our campaign as we move forward and find new ways to share our message with the public [inaudible 00:01:42]

People, first above everything else. Yesterday, we announced the public health advisory committee of experts who will continue to counsel my campaign and me. Help guide our decisions on the steps to minimize further risks and we also, we will lead by science. The world [inaudible 00:02:06], officially declared COVID-19 a pandemic.[inaudible 00:02:12] Being overly dismissive or [inaudible 00:02:16] is only going to hurt us and further advance the spread of the disease, but neither should we panic or fall back on xenophobia labeling COVID-19 a foreign virus does not displace accountability for the misjudgments that have taken thus far by the Trump administration.

Let me be crystal clear. The coronavirus does not have a political affiliation. It will infect Republicans, independents and Democrats alike and will not discriminate based on national origin, race, gender or zip code. It well touch people in positions of power as well as the most vulnerable in our society. And it will not stop, banning all travel from Europe or any other part of the world may slow it, but as we’ve seen it will not stop it. And travel restrictions based on favoritism and politics rather than a risk will be counterproductive.

This disease could impact every nation and any person on the planet. We need a plan about how we’re going to aggressively manage here at home. You all do know, the American people have the capacity to meet this moment. We’re going to face this with the same spirit that has guided us in through previous crises and we’ll come together as a nation. We’ll look out for one another and do our part as citizens. We have to harness the ingenuity of our scientists and the resourcefulness of our people and we have to help the world, help the world to drive coordinated global strategy, not shut ourselves off from the world. Protecting the health and safety of the American people is the most important job of any president. And unfortunately this virus laid bear the severe shortcomings of the current administration.

Public fears are being compounded by pervasive lack of trust in this president, fueled by adversarial relationships with the truth that he continues to have. Our government’s ability to respond effectively has been undermined by hollowing out our agencies and disparagement of science and our ability to drive a global response is dramatically, dramatically undercut by the damage Trump has done to our credibility and our relationships around the world. We have to get to work immediately to dig ourselves out of this hole. And that’s why today we will combat and overcome the coronavirus.

The full details of the plan, if you want to see them go to Joe biden.com where I lay out the immediate steps we have to take to deliver one decisive public health response to curb the spread of the disease and to provide treatment to those who need it, and a decisive economic response that delivers real relief to American workers, families, and small businesses. And protects the economy as a whole are offered as a roadmap, not for what I will do as president 10 months from now, but for the leadership that I believe is needed and required at this very moment. President Trump has welcomed to adopt all of it today. The core principle is simple. Public health professionals must be the ones making our public health decisions and communicating with the American people. Public health professional. It would be a step toward reclaiming public trust and confidence in the United States government as well. Towards stopping the fear and chaos that can overtake communities faster than this pandemic can overtake them. And it’s critical to mount an effective national response that will save lives, protect our frontline health workers, slow the spread of the virus.

It means we’ll need bigger and broader measures to shore up the economic demand, protect jobs, keep credit flowing to our job creators and make sure we have economic firepower we need to weather the storm and get the people and this economy back to full strength as soon as possible. This crisis will hit everyone, but it’ll hit folks who live paycheck to paycheck the hardest, including working people and seniors. Another tax cut to Google or Goldman or millionaires won’t get the job done. Another tax cut to these folks will not get the job done. Indiscriminate corporate tax subsidies won’t effectively target those who really need the help, now. We need to place our focus on those who are struggling just to get by. People are already losing jobs. We need to replace their wages. That includes workers in the gig economy who lack unemployment insurance.

Parents already struggling with childcare costs. We need to give them relief. Children who rely on school lunches, we need to provide food for them. Schools will need to help in ensuring children who don’t have easy access to computers can still learn if their schools shut down. People who have difficulty paying their rent or mortgage because they’ve been laid off or had their hours cut back. We need to help them to stay in their apartments, and their homes. Small businesses will be devastated as customers stay home and adventure canceled. And we need to make sure they have access to interest free loans, not loans with interest, interest free loans. It’s a national disgrace that millions of our fellow citizens don’t have a single day of paid sick leave available to them. You need both a permanent plan for paid sick leave and an emergency plan for everyone who needs it due to the outbreak, now.

Beyond these national measures, my plan also calls for the creation of a state local emergency fund to make sure governors, mayors, and local leaders who are battling the coronavirus on the ground as I speak, have the resources necessary to meet this crisis head on, now. These funds can be used at the discretion of local leaders for whatever they need most. From expanding critical health infrastructure, hiring additional healthcare and emergency service personnel or cushioning the wider economic blows this virus is going to create in their communities. We need smart, bold, compassionate leadership that’s going to help contain the crisis, reduce the hardship to our people and help our economy rebound.

Let me be very clear. Unfortunately, this will just be a start. We must prepare now to take further decisive action, including relief that will be large in scale focused on broader health and stability of our economy. Look, you can only protect the health or our economy if we do everything in our power to protect the health of our people. The last point I want to make is this, will never fully solve this problem if we’re unwilling to look beyond our own borders and engage fully with the rest of the world. A disease that starts any place in the planet can get on a plane to any city on earth within a few hours.

We have to confront a coronavirus everywhere. We should be leading a coordinated global response just as we did to the Ebola crisis. That draws on the incredible capability of the U.S. Agency for International Development and our State Department to assist vulnerable nations in detecting and treating the coronavirus wherever it’s spreading. We should be investing in rebuilding and strengthening the global health security agenda, which we launched during our administration specifically to mobilize the world against the threats of new infectious diseases.

Look, it can be hard to see the concrete value of this work when everything seems to be going well in the world. But by cutting our investment in global health, this administration has left us woefully unprepared for the exact crisis we now face. No president can promise to prevent future outbreaks, but I can promise you this. When I’m president, we will be better prepared, respond better and recover better. We’ll lead with science. We’ll listen to the experts. We’ll heed their advice and we’ll build American leadership and rebuild it to rally the world to meet global threats that we are likely to face again.

And I’ll always tell you the truth, this is the responsibility of a president. That’s what is owed the American people, now and in difficult days ahead. I know that this country will some of the spirit, the empathy, the decency, and the unity needed. Because in times of crisis, the American people, always, always stand as one if told the truth. Volunteers raise their hands to help, neighbors look out for neighbors. Businesses take care of their workers. So we’ll meet this challenge together. I’m confident of it. We have to move and move now. Thank you all for taking the time to be here and God bless our troops. Thank you.

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