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Wednesday July 15th, 2020 12:56AM

Biden to hammer Trump for handling of COVID-19 pandemic

By The Associated Press
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WILMINGTON, Delaware (AP) — Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden plans Tuesday to blister President Donald Trump for his handling of the coronavirus pandemic as he tries to demonstrate to voters how he’d handle the public health and economic crisis if he were in the White House. “It’s not about you, Mr. President — it’s about the health and well-being of the American public,” Biden will say, according to prepared remarks released by the campaign.

“The American people didn’t make enormous sacrifices over the past four months so you could waste your time with late night rantings and tweets,” Biden's remarks continue. “They didn’t make these sacrifices so you could ignore the science and turn responsible steps like wearing a mask into a political statement.”

In a separate outline released ahead of his afternoon address, Biden’s campaign called it “impossible” to predict the state of the pandemic on Inauguration Day next January, but said Biden “won’t wait to take action,” and promised one of his first actions would be to ask Dr. Anthony Fauci, the federal government’s leading infectious disease expert, to continue serving.

Trump has often contradicted Fauci’s guidelines on coronavirus, and the veteran of six administrations has been largely out of public view in recent weeks as COVID-19 cases have spiked across the country.

Biden is scheduled to deliver afternoon remarks in his hometown of Wilmington, Delaware, miles from his residence where he’s spent most of his campaign time since early March, when governors and mayors around the country first began issuing stay-at-home orders and social distancing guidelines to prevent the pandemic’s spread.

During a Monday fundraiser, Biden offered a potential preview of his approach, telling donors that Trump has repeatedly offered Americans a “false choice” between “lives and livelihoods.”

“Donald Trump acts like we have to choose between our public health and our economy,” Biden said Monday, repeating his argument that Trump has made the death count and the economic toll of the pandemic worse by not fully engaging the federal government in combating the disease.

The presumptive Democratic nominee plans to remind voters of actions he’s called for over several months, in contrast to Trump downplaying the virus and bemoaning governors’ orders that helped slow the economy to a crawl. Biden said he’d implement those plans as president, focusing on a national testing-and-tracing system that he touts as the key to restoring enough confidence for businesses to reopen safely and consumers to re-engage with the economy.

Biden also plans to prioritize personal protective equipment. Biden called early in the pandemic for Trump to use the Defense Production Act, usually a wartime statute, to direct private sector manufacturing capacity to produce more health care materials needed to prevent, treat and combat the virus. Trump later said he was invoking the act to ramp up production of ventilators, though he spent weeks arguing that governors should be responsible for securing their own supplies.

Biden also has said he’d apply the Defense Production Act to the banking sector, requiring financial institutions to prioritize small businesses as they dispense loan programs from the federal treasury. Congress has passed hundreds of billions of dollars in relief for businesses and individuals, but the programs have come under sharp criticism as larger businesses, including some larger corporations, got quick access to capital while smaller enterprises languished or closed altogether.

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Associated Press reporter Bill Barrow reported from Atlanta.

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