In a sweeping speech in Gettysburg, Pa., the site of the turning point in the U.S. Civil War, Biden compared that period of history to the politically fractured country the U.S. has become, and hit President Donald Trump — without naming him — for how he’s handled the pandemic.
"Let's end the politics and follow the science. Wearing a mask is not a political statement. It's a scientific recommendation. Social distancing isn't a political statement. It's a scientific recommendation,” Biden said.
“Testing, tracing, the development and approval, and the distribution of a vaccine isn't a political statement. It is a science based decision. We can't undo what has been done. We can't go back. But we can do so much better,” he continued.
“The pandemic isn’t a red or blue state issue,” he added. "It affects us all and can take anyone's life. It’s a virus. It’s not a political weapon."
The remarks came one day after Trump left Walter Reed Military National Military Medical Center, where he’d been hospitalized since Friday after testing positive for Covid-19.
Upon his return to the White House Monday night, Trump immediately took off his mask to pose for pictures before walking in. The highly choreographed moment came hours after Trump suggested online that the disease is not that serious of a threat. Health experts say coronavirus patients should wear masks to avoid infecting others and the president is still believed to be contagious.
The Trump administration has provided conflicting messaging about mask-wearing over the last five months, which has, in turn, sown confusion, hampered the country's response to the pandemic and led to preventable deaths, public health experts have said. And Trump himself has repeatedly mocked Biden for wearing a mask, including at the presidential debate last week.
Biden on Tuesday suggested that Trump was among a group of people in the U.S. who had thrown information about the virus into an arsenal of tools to use in “total partisan unrelenting warfare” and that he would, if elected, attempt to heal the political and cultural divides that he hinted the president helped create.
“This must end,” Biden said. “I’m running as a Democrat, but I will govern as an American president.”
Biden also used his speech, which at times appeared designed to set the tone for the final four weeks of the race, to address how other critical issues — particularly racial injustice, peaceful protesting and maintaining law and order — had been egregiously politicized, too.
“I believe in law and order, I’ve never supported defunding the police. But I also believe injustice is real,” he said. “We do not have to choose between law and order and racial justice in America. We can have both.”
Trump, for his part, appeared to respond indirectly to the speech, tweeting moments after Biden concluded his remarks about polls showing the Democratic nominee leading in Pennsylvania.
“How does Biden lead in Pennsylvania Polls when he is against Fracking (JOBS!), 2nd Amendment and Religion? Fake Polls. I will win Pennsylvania!” Trump tweeted.
Biden did not mention fracking in his speech and has said repeatedly that he will not ban fracking.