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Sunday October 25th, 2020 7:28AM

The Latest: Biden hedges on whether to mandate virus vaccine

By The Associated Press
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WASHINGTON (AP) — The latest on the presidential campaign (all times local):

8:40 p.m.

Democrat Joe Biden is hedging on whether he would mandate that all Americans be vaccinated against COVID-19.

Biden said Thursday during a town-hall-style event in Philadelphia 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.”

___

HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT WHAT’S HAPPENING IN THE PRESIDENTIAL RACE:

President Donald Trump is traveling to North Carolina and Florida on Thursday and will participate in an NBC town hall from Miami at 8 p.m. Eastern. His Democratic challenger, Joe Biden, is participating in an ABC town hall from Philadelphia at the same time.

Read more:

— President Donald Trump and Joe Biden will compete for TV audiences in dueling town halls.

— Poll by AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research finds majorities of Americans are highly critical of Trump’s handling of coronavirus pandemic and his own illness.

— Harris temporarily suspend in-person events after two campaign associates test positive for virus.

__

HERE'S WHAT ELSE IS GOING ON:

8:35 p.m.

Democrat Joe Biden says he doesn’t plan to eliminate all the tax cuts enacted by President Donald Trump, just those that apply to the top earners.

Referencing tax cuts for the top 1%, Biden said Thursday at an ABC town hall: “That’s what I’m talking about eliminating, not all the tax cuts that are out there.”

His running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris, said in the vice presidential debate that Biden would repeal the tax bill passed by Congress and signed by Trump “on day one″ but also that he wouldn’t raise taxes on people making less than $400,000. Vice President Mike Pence pointed out repealing the entire tax bill would eliminate tax cuts for lower earners.

He referred to a card he pulled from his pocket with facts and figures on how much money would be raised through certain tax rates.

Biden sayss raising taxes on corporations and high-income earners would bring in a lot of money to invest in programs that can “make your life easier.”

___

8:30 p.m.

President Donald Trump says, without evidence, that people who wear face masks are getting infected with the coronavirus “all the time.”

Trump made the claim Thursday under questioning during an NBC News town hall event in Miami.

The president was asked about a large White House gathering Sept. 26 that is believed to be a source of coronavirus infections in many people who attended, including the president and first lady Melania Trump. Most guests didn’t wear masks.

Trump says he’s “good with masks” before claiming that “people with masks are catching it all the time.” Trump rarely wears a mask himself.

The director to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said wearing a mask is the best way to prevent infection, short of a vaccine that is still in development.

___

8:25 p.m.

President Donald Trump is refusing to condemn a conspiracy theory that holds that the government is run by anti-Trump Satanic pedophiles, but he is condemning white supremacy.

Trump gave the initial condemnation under sharp questioning by Savannah Guthrie of NBC News. She pushed him to condemn the movement in a way he had refrained from doing on the debate stage with Joe Biden last month.

“I denounce white supremacy,” Trump said. “I’ve denounced white supremacy for years.”

But Trump refused to make the same statement about the QAnon movement, which believes Democrats and the government are Satanic pedophiles whom Trump will destroy. Trump falsely insisted he knew nothing of the movement, although he has been asked about it many times before. Trump has previously said he was pleased with the movement because it praises him.

“I know they are very much against pedophilia,” Trump said.

___

8:20 p.m.

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.

___

8:05 p.m.

President Donald Trump was evasive when asked whether he took a coronavirus test on the day of the first debate, like he was supposed to.

Trump’s comments came in the opening moments of Thursday night’s town hall-style meeting on NBC. His Democratic challenger, Joe Biden, was appearing at a similar event at the same time on another network.

Trump was seated on stage, not wearing a mask, on a set with several voters spaced several feet apart, all of them wearing masks.

Pressed many times, he finally said he “probably” took a test the day of the opening debate last week, but he doesn’t remember. The Commission on Presidential Debates asked the two candidates to take tests before they arrived, but it was on the honor system.

He tested positive for the coronavirus two days after the first debate.

Trump also says he has “nothing, whatsoever” remaining of symptoms from his coronavirus infection. But he acknowledged that doctors determined that his lungs were “a little bit infected” when he was hospitalized.

___

8 p.m.

The dueling town halls have begun.

President Donald Trump and his Democratic challenger, Joe Biden, are competing for TV audiences on Thursday night instead of meeting face-to-face for their second debate as originally planned.

The two are taking questions in different cities on different networks: Trump on NBC from Miami, Biden on ABC from Philadelphia. Trump backed out of plans for the presidential faceoff originally scheduled for Thursday evening after debate organizers said it would be held virtually following Trump’s coronavirus diagnosis.

The town halls offer a different format for the candidates to present themselves to voters, after the two held a chaotic and combative first debate late last month.

___

5:55 p.m.

Vice President Mike Pence is rallying Hispanic voters in Florida by highlighting President Donald Trump’s record opposing socialist leaders across Latin America.

Pence said Thursday that their support in the battleground state is crucial to guarantee Trump’s reelection. About 2.4 million Latinos are registered to vote for the 2020 presidential election in Florida.

A few hundred Trump supporters who emigrated from various countries gathered at the Cuban Memorial in Miami’s Tamiami Park to cheer for Pence as he criticized Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden for being part of former President Barack Obama’s normalization of relations with Cuba in 2014.

Pence says, “President Trump brought eight years of appeasement to an end and President Donald Trump will only stand hand in hand with you.”

For the past four years, Trump has been taking steps to reinstate an economic blockade of Cuba and reverse Obama’s thaw.

___

5:05 p.m.

Kamala Harris says the Democratic presidential campaign’s response to positive coronavirus tests among their team “obviously stands in stark contrast to you-know-who.”

Harris, Joe Biden’s running mate, made the thinly veiled remark about President Donald Trump on Thursday during a virtual fundraising call.

She was scheduled to campaign in North Carolina but canceled the trip after her communications director and a member of the flight crew on a recent trip tested positive for the virus. Harris says she last saw them both seven days ago, and her doctors say her activity doesn’t need to be restricted based on CDC guidelines. Harris tested negative for the virus on Thursday.

Harris says the campaign has been following a strict set of rules to keep people safe.

She says, “Just so you know, I feel great and will proceed with everything that is necessary in these next 19 days.”

She says she’s spoken to both people who contracted the virus and that they “are doing well.”

___

4:20 p.m.

A third person tied to Joe Biden’s campaign has tested positive for the coronavirus.

The news comes as Biden’s running mate, Kamala Harris, paused her in-person campaigning after finding out two others, one of her staffers and a crew member on her flight to Arizona last week, tested positive for the virus. Both Biden and Harris tested negative for the coronavirus Thursday morning.

Biden campaign manager Jen O’Malley Dillon said in a statement that an administrative staffer for the company that charters Biden’s campaign plane tested positive on Thursday morning. The staffer flew with Biden to Ohio on Monday and Florida on Tuesday, but O’Malley Dillon says they were always over 50 feet (15 meters) away from Biden, and both wore masks for the entire flight.

Because Biden was not in close contact with the person, the campaign’s medical experts have advised that Biden doesn’t need to quarantine.

___

3:05 p.m.

California Sen. Kamala Harris has tested negative for the coronavirus.

It comes the same day she canceled travel for several days after two people involved with the Democratic presidential campaign tested positive.

The campaign says both Harris and her husband, Doug Emhoff, tested negative for the virus Thursday.

Harris, Joe Biden’s running mate, was scheduled to campaign in North Carolina, which she has replaced with a virtual event.

The campaign announced Thursday morning that Harris’ communications director and a noncampaign staff member of the fight crew for her travel tested positive for the virus. The campaign says Harris did not have close contact with either within the past 48 hours.

___

3 p.m.

President Donald Trump is taking some of his most overt swipes yet at Dr. Anthony Fauci while campaigning in North Carolina.

Trump is defending his administration’s response to the pandemic, as he generally does at his rallies.

He offered a reminder that Fauci at one point said that people should not wear a mask. The doctor has said that an early recommendation about not wearing a mask was because there was a shortage of personal protective equipment for health professionals at the time. He has since called for universal mask wearing.

Trump called Fauci a nice guy, “so I keep him around.”

But he also described Fauci, the government’s top infectious disease expert, as a Democrat. “Everybody knows that. He’s Cuomo’s friend,” Trump says, a reference to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Fauci has been studiously apolitical over a five-decade career in public health. The doctor has expressed dismay that the president used his comments in a campaign ad and says his comments were taken out of comments.

___

2:15 p.m.

President Donald Trump has added some new material to his campaign rally speech: his teenage son Barron’s recent coronavirus infection.

Trump has worked the 14-year-old’s medical condition into his rally speech since the first lady disclosed Wednesday that their son had tested positive. She said he didn’t have any symptoms and has since tested negative.

Mrs. Trump has fiercely guarded the ninth-grader’s privacy, but the president is now using his son’s case to bolster his argument for why schools can and should fully reopen.

At a rally Thursday in Greenville, North Carolina, Trump said: “My beautiful Barron had it. He recovered so fast.” Trump and the first lady have also recovered from the coronavirus.

___

1:35 p.m.

Joe Biden is thanking some Republican donors as he celebrates a record-breaking campaign fundraising haul.

The former vice president, in conjunction with the Democratic National Committee, raised $383 million in September, breaking the record for monthly contributions he set in August with $364 million.

Biden participated Thursday in a virtual fundraiser hosted by Democratic National Committee Finance Chair Chris Korge. Biden said of those participating: “Some of you are Republicans, which makes a great deal of difference to me.”

“We’ve raised more than I ever thought we could,” Biden added.

Biden also said he’d spoken to billionaire Warren Buffett about plans for post-coronavirus pandemic spending. He says they discussed how perhaps “in the last 100 years, we’ve never been in this position to be able to come back and, not only build back better, but lead the world.”

“No one can outcompete us. I really mean it,” Biden said. “It’s the nature of who we are if we invest in our people.”

___

1:30 p.m.

Joe Biden has tested negative for the coronavirus.

The test result comes even as his running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris, has halted her in-person campaigning after two campaign aides tested positive for the virus. Harris traveled with the staffers during a trip to Arizona last week on Oct. 8, during which she and Biden campaigned together.

Biden campaign manager Jen O’Malley Dillon said Harris had minimal contact with the staffers but paused her in-person campaigning out of an “abundance of caution.” Biden was slated to continue with a planned trip to Philadelphia on Thursday evening for a televised town hall because he did not come in contact with the staffers.

Both have had multiple negative coronavirus tests since the Oct. 8 trip.

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