WILMINGTON, Delaware: Democratic nominee Joe Biden looked to shift the focus of the U.S. presidential race back to the coronavirus and President Donald Trump’s handling of the pandemic during a campaign event on Wednesday on safely reopening the country’s schools.
The health crisis, in which more than 184,000 Americans have died, has been overshadowed in recent days by civil unrest in Portland, Oregon, and Kenosha, Wisconsin, where police shot Jacob Blake in the back last week, triggering protests.
Biden’s event was part of his campaign’s ongoing effort to make the Nov. 3 election in part a referendum on the Trump administration’s response to the outbreak and came as millions of students are starting a new school year either virtually or under restrictive conditions.
“If President Trump and his administration had done their jobs early on in this crisis, American schools would be open. And they’d be open safely,” Biden said after receiving a briefing from health experts in Wilmington, Delaware.
Biden and his Republican opponent, have offered dueling arguments ahead of the election over which candidate can keep the country safe.
Trump visited Kenosha on Tuesday, where he accused Democrats of fostering the sometimes violent protests over racial injustice and police brutality that have rocked the nation for months after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody.
In response, Biden plans to travel to Kenosha on Thursday, where he will hold a community meeting, his campaign said.
Reopening schools amid the pandemic has been a top priority for Trump, who has argued it’s necessary to boost the economy and give relief to working parents. His campaign on Wednesday criticized Biden for being overly cautious on the matter.
“[Biden] always casts things as an either or situation. Either we can open up or we can be safe,” said Tim Murtaugh, a Trump spokesman, in a call with reporters. “The president disagrees with that. It can be both. For the economy and schools, we can both be open and be safe.”
At his event, Biden called on Trump to bring congressional leaders together to negotiate a new aid package to assist state and local governments, which have struggled to provide services for students amid an economic downturn due to coronavirus lockdowns. Congress has been in an impasse over another round of virus-related relief.
“Get off Twitter and start talking to congressional leaders of both parties,” Biden said.
Trump on Wednesday traveled to Wilmington, North Carolina, which like Wisconsin, is an election battleground. There, he was to make remarks commemorating the 75th anniversary of the ending of World War Two.
Earlier in the day, Biden’s team announced that his campaign and the Democratic National Committee had raised $364.5 million in August, shattering the record for the most money raised in a single month during a presidential campaign. The Trump campaign has yet to release its figures for the month.
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