Participating in a town hall discussion on Monday in the key battleground state of Florida, Joe Biden said he would implement a mandate of masks on federal property if elected president amid the coronavirus pandemic. The mandate would apply to places such as national buildings, Social Security offices and federal courthouses.
Biden’s remarks stood in stark contrast with President Donald Trump, who made a point to remove his mask when he entered the White House on Monday after returning from the hospital. Trump is currently recovering from the coronavirus at the White House after a three-day stay at Walter Reed Medical Center.
The primetime town hall featuring the former vice president was aired on NBC.
Biden conceded that the president does not have the power to call for a nationwide mask mandate in all 50 states, but he would use the bully pulpit of the presidency to compel state and local leaders to enforce mask wearing in public spaces.
“I would go out and I would call all of the governors to the White House, some probably wouldn’t come, and I would say… ‘take responsibility,’” Biden said. “Take responsibility and lay out the guidelines. One of the problems is this president said ‘I take no responsibility.’ Literally.
“'It is not my responsibility.’ So if it is not his responsibility, he talked about this being like a time of war, we are under attack. As I said earlier, 200,000 plus have died, 50,000 plus a day are getting the virus (the average in recent days has been 40,000 per day), 1,000 per day or thereabout are dying, this is a national emergency.”
Biden said that he was not surprised that Trump, his opponent in next month’s presidential election, was infected with the coronavirus.
“Quite frankly, I wasn’t surprised,” Biden told NBC’s Lester Holt. “For the last three months, three times a week, I am on the telephone and on Zoom with some of the leading immunologists in the nation and they go through everything that is happening. So the idea that COVID does not spread in proximity when you don’t have a mask on and when you’re not socially distancing, when there are large groups of people, when you're inside particularly, but even when you’re outside, that is not surprising.
To watch the full town hall featuring Biden, click here.