Joe Biden released a blueprint for his plan to reopen the country Monday in which he called on President Trump to drastically increase testing through a coordinated nationwide program and to launch an all-out effort to develop a vaccine as fast as possible.
Biden has been forced to campaign from his home in Delaware since turning his attention toward a general election matchup against Trump, and has sought to stand out amid pandemic-related obscurity by running a shadow presidency that stands counter to the White House response to the pandemic.
In the lengthy memo drafted by Biden and his public health committee, the former vice president blamed Trump for the lack of a coordinated nationwide plan and testing shortfall: “We are still seeing a massive shortfall and extensive disparities between states in testing—that’s unacceptable.”
Trump, for his part, has boasted about the U.S. testing capability, saying it is “the most expansive testing system anywhere in the world,” even as governors across the country continue to say they do not have the testing they need to reopen.
In the memo, Biden also proposed developing a public health jobs corps of 100,000 people to assist with testing and a coordinated global approach to developing a vaccine; “The only way to stop COVID-19 here, is to stop it everywhere,” he said.
Biden called for Trump to create a Pandemic Testing Board akin to former President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s War Production Board that would scale up production and “oversee a nationwide campaign to provide both diagnostic and antibody tests.”
Researchers are split about how much the U.S. needs to ramp up testing to safely reopen but conservative estimates call for the country to test eight-tenths of one percent of the national population to be tested each week; the New York Times reports that most states fall far short of that number.
A lack of testing has beset the U.S. since the beginning of the outbreak, an issue federal officials say is the result of supply chain issues and a botched rollout by the Centers for Disease Control.
“We are not in a situation where we can say we are exactly where we want to be with regard to testing,” Dr. Anthony Fauci said this week in an interview with Time.
“Testing is the springboard we need to help get our economy safely up and running again,” Biden says in the memo. “Trump could make this happen. He hasn’t. Instead, he’s pushed sole responsibility to governors, while telling them to fly blind without the critical data we derive from testing.”
But Biden also said testing is “not enough” to combat this crisis. “We also need Apollo-like moonshots to develop and deploy proven therapeutics and vaccines globally if we are ever to gain the upper hand on this virus,” he said. Scientists and health experts say a vaccine is a year or more away.
Biden also echoed other critics of the White House in attacking Trump for elevating politicians over health experts in its coronavirus response.
“We cannot allow this administration to repeat its failure on testing with therapeutics and vaccines,” he said. “We must let science—not politicians—lead.”
The attack comes as Axios reports the Trump administration is planning on relegating Dr. Fauci and Dr. Deborah Birx to a “back seat” role as the White House response transitions toward focusing on the economy.
Testing Remains Scarce as Governors Weigh Reopening States (New York Times
Without More Tests, America Can’t Reopen (The Atlantic)