Joe Biden slammed President Donald Trump on Friday for his decision to hold campaign rallies during the coronavirus pandemic while making attendees acknowledge that they could get sick by coming.
“And now he’s having a rally on Juneteenth,” Biden said on a call with members of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. "All the people coming to the rally have to sign a piece of paper that if they get COVID in this, they will not sue the campaign."
“I mean come on, man," he continued. “I get angry about it." Biden misidentified the location of the rally, saying it was Arizona, when it is in Tulsa, Okla.
The presumptive Democratic nominee’s criticism referred to an invitation from the Trump campaign to attendees of its first live rally since the pandemic hit that included a disclaimer that they must agree not to hold the campaign liable if they get the coronavirus in the 19,000-seat arena. The invitation for the event in Tulsa next Friday asks people to register online for the event — and waive their rights to sue if they get sick.
The rally is being held in the Bank of Oklahoma Center and comes as the city is in phase three of reopening from the coronavirus pandemic.
Biden, returning to the topic later in the phone call Friday, said Trump “knows it’s a problem” that people are likely to contract the virus at the rally.
“But he’s not doing a damn thing about it,” Biden said.
At another point, Biden said it was “almost criminal, the way he’s handled this,” referring to the Trump administration's response to the pandemic.
Asked at a telephone briefing Friday about whether it was safe to hold political rallies, Dr. Jay Butler, the deputy director for infectious diseases at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, pointed to the agency's guidance, which cautions that being in a group with people who aren't social-distancing or wearing face coverings raises risk of infection, and the risk also increases in indoor spaces and the longer the amount of time spent in a place.
"The guidelines are really for any type of mass gathering, whether it’s a backyard barbecue or something larger," Butler said. "And it’s not intended to endorse any particular type of event, but be applicable to any type of event that may occur."
Butler added that "the most important thing" to minimize risk of infection is maintaining social distancing, access to hand hygiene and face coverings.