IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Biden says Trump has 'waved the white flag' on pandemic

Saying Trump's coronavirus response has "failed," Biden promised a bigger role for Dr. Anthony Fauci if he is elected.
Image: Democratic U.S. presidential candidate Biden speaks at campaign event in Wilmington, Delaware
Joe Biden holds his protective mask as he speaks about the Trump administration's handling of the coronavirus pandemic during a campaign event in Wilmington, Del., on Tuesday.Kevin Lamarque / Reuters

Joe Biden ramped up his criticism of President Donald Trump's handling of the coronavirus pandemic Tuesday, warning Americans that the president "failed us" and urging the administration to implement formal nationwide public health rules.

"Month after month, as many of us urged him to step up and do his job, he failed us," Biden said in a speech from a high school in Wilmington, Delaware.

"We cannot continue like this, half wearing masks, half rejecting signs," Biden said. "We can't continue half with a plan, half just hoping for the best."

Biden said that if Trump had listened to public health experts, as well as to the suggestions he had offered in recent months, the pandemic might not have grown as quickly as it did.

"It didn't have to be this way," Biden said, adding that Trump "has surrendered, waved the white flag and left the battlefield" in the fight against the outbreak.

Full coverage of the coronavirus outbreak

Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, took questions from reporters after his speech — the first time he has done so at a live public event since he resumed them following a monthslong digital-only campaign. The decision to take questions came a few hours after the Trump campaign, in a phone call with reporters, ripped Biden for not having done so in months.

Asked how his campaign would proceed during the pandemic, Biden affirmed that he would not be holding any rallies and that he was going to "follow the doc's orders." He added that he can "hardly wait" to face off against Trump in the presidential debates, and he said he may request intelligence briefings earlier than is customary (major party presidential nominees can receive such briefings after they are formally nominated). Biden said he has not been tested for COVID-19, but he said he could be soon.

Biden also repeatedly pointed to his own warnings about the pandemic since January — and to his more recent warnings that the failure to adequately address it would lead to the new spike in infections that is now being seen.

The Trump campaign hit back in a statement, claiming that the president's plan is working.

"Joe Biden spent the last five months trying to come up with a plan. The president has been leading one that slowed the spread, made us the world leader in testing, and reopened our economy," said Ali Pardo, the campaign's deputy communications director.

The Biden campaign, in a statement issued earlier Tuesday, revealed new elements of his plan to combat the pandemic.

Download the NBC News app for breaking news and politics

The campaign said Biden, if elected, would give Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, who appears to have been sidelined by the administration's response to the pandemic, "full access to the Oval Office and an uncensored platform to speak directly to the American people, whether delivering good news or bad."

In a speech outside Philadelphia last week, Biden accused Trump of "flat-out surrendering" the fight against the disease and urged the president to "wake up" and "get to work."