Biden And Harris Test Negative For The Coronavirus, Wish Trumps Swift Recovery

Oct 2, 2020
Originally published on October 2, 2020 6:06 pm

Updated at 3:23 p.m. ET

After two negative coronavirus tests this morning, Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden proceeded with a campaign stop in Grand Rapids, Mich. Biden's wife, Jill Biden, also tested negative today.

The former vice president shared the debate stage with President Trump on Tuesday, just a few days before Trump announced he tested positive for the coronavirus. Jill Biden was in attendance.

"This is not a matter of politics," Biden told the small audience gathered outside a union hall in Michigan. "It's a bracing reminder to all of us that we have to take this virus seriously; it's not going away automatically. We have to do our part to be responsible."

Biden's negative test was announced by the campaign earlier in the day.

"Vice President Joe Biden and Dr. Jill Biden underwent PCR testing for COVID-19 today and COVID-19 was not detected," Dr. Kevin O'Connor, the Bidens' primary care physician, wrote in a statement Friday afternoon. A negative test does not mean the Bidens are completely in the clear, as the virus may not be detectable soon after exposure.

Biden tweeted shortly after: "I hope this serves as a reminder: wear a mask, keep social distance, and wash your hands."

Biden's running mate, Kamala Harris, also tested negative for the coronavirus Friday. She will continue with a scheduled campaign stop in Nevada on Friday.

Explaining the travel to Michigan, a campaign official said Biden was not in close contact with Trump, wore a mask at all times apart from on stage, and that the campaign incorporates best practices for all events.

Biden, wearing a disposable mask, said a second planned campaign stop in Michigan that would have been held indoors was cancelled based on the advice of medical experts. Before launching into a planned speech on the economy, Biden reiterated the importance of wearing masks.

"Be patriotic," Biden said. "It's not about being a tough guy; it's about doing your part. Wearing a mask is not only going to protect you, but it also protects those around you. Your mom, your dad, brother, sister, husband, wife, neighbor coworker. Don't just do it for yourself. Do it for the people you love, the people you work with."

He also said Trump's positive test is a reminder that regular testing isn't yet available nationwide and that the president has failed to get a handle on managing the pandemic.

"It's not just the folks in the White House or who travel with me who deserve regular testing," Biden said. "It's the folks in the meat packing plants, grocery store workers. Every single American deserves safety and piece of mind."

Biden and Harris on Friday morning wished the president and first lady Melania Trump a swift recovery after the Trumps said they tested positive for the coronavirus.

Biden and Trump shared a debate stage, maskless, for about 90 minutes on Tuesday night. Their lecterns were more than 6 feet apart, and the two men did not shake hands before or after as a safety measure.

But the president's family and top aides sat maskless in the front of the audience, even after a Cleveland Clinic staffer offered them facial coverings — a glaring contrast with every other debate guest and staffer in the venue, who were all wearing masks.

Biden's campaign has taken coronavirus precautions seriously, for political and policy reasons, but also due to the simple fact that virus symptoms have proven to be far more serious for older people and Biden is 77. (Trump is 74.)

Biden did not hold a campaign event outside his home until Memorial Day. His events all summer were carefully orchestrated to minimize risk, with small, sometimes nonexistent audiences, all masked, standing and sitting in designated circles in order to ensure social distancing.

In recent weeks, Biden has begun a more traditional campaign schedule. He has flown to Michigan, Wisconsin, North Carolina and other swing states, and just completed a whistle-stop train tour through Ohio and Pennsylvania.

That put Biden in contact with many more people, though the campaign continued to take more stringent safety measures than Trump has. The campaign handed out N95 masks to everyone traveling on the train, for example. And Biden — sometimes only due to the consistent prodding of campaign staff — has not shaken hands with any of the voters he interacts with, though he has often stood much closer than 6 feet during conversations.

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TONYA MOSLEY, HOST:

President Trump announced overnight that he and the first lady have tested positive for the coronavirus. This afternoon the president was flown to Walter Reed Hospital, where he will be hospitalized for the next few days. The White House says it's out of an abundance of caution. Joe Biden and his wife Jill Biden have tested negative for the coronavirus. The Democratic nominee shared the debate stage with President Trump on Tuesday, and Jill Biden was in the audience. To discuss the Biden campaign perspective, we're joined by NPR political correspondent Scott Detrow.

Hi, Scott.

SCOTT DETROW, BYLINE: Hey. Good afternoon.

MOSLEY: Yes. What have we heard about the Biden today - or from Biden today?

DETROW: Well, he just spoke in Michigan, in Grand Rapids, Mich. Notably, he wore a mask during his entire speech, which is unusual. Usually, Biden takes his mask off when he's actually speaking. Biden made it clear he is rooting for the president here.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JOE BIDEN: My wife Jill and I pray that they'll make a quick and full recovery. This is not a matter of politics. It's a bracing reminder to all of us that we have to take this virus seriously. It's not going away automatically.

DETROW: Biden didn't fault the president for dismissing social distancing and masks, but he did reiterate the importance of wearing masks and other precautions. Biden said he was actually tested twice today. He was negative. And as a reminder, he stood about 15 feet from President Trump for an hour and a half at the debate this week.

MOSLEY: Let's take a step back, Scott. These two candidates, in terms of how they approach campaigning, have treated this pandemic very differently.

DETROW: Yeah. Biden has taken this seriously for political reasons, thinking voters want to see that, but practical reasons, too. He's a 77-year-old man and therefore a high-risk person for this. He essentially didn't leave his house from mid-March until June. And then over the summer, he only campaigned in very controlled events within driving distance of his house with a very minimal crowd. In recent weeks, he's ramped up campaign travel and flown to swing states, but they have still kept things controlled.

I was on a two-state train tour with him this week, and everyone on the train was required to wear N95 masks. When Biden did interact with voters, they stood on specifically marked spots. And President Trump, of course, has taken the opposite approach and at times mocked Joe Biden for his caution, including at this week's debate.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: When needed, I wear masks.

CHRIS WALLACE: OK. Let me ask...

TRUMP: I don't have - I don't wear masks like him. Every time you see him, he's got a mask. He could be speaking 200 feet away from it, and he shows up with the biggest mask I've ever seen.

DETROW: The president has held large rallies, as we've talked a lot about. And you saw the difference in approaches at the debate. The Trump family and top staff were the only people in that audience not wearing masks.

MOSLEY: Biden, as you mentioned, spoke in Michigan today. Given these contrasting approaches to campaigning and the unfolding events, is it surprising that Biden is actually back on the trail?

DETROW: You know, I personally was a little surprised to see him go forward with the travel. The campaign has prioritized science, listening to scientists. And we know that a negative test just three days after a potential exposure might not catch an infection. But as I've noted before, the campaign really has been careful all along. A campaign official told us Biden tested negative. He wasn't in close contact with the president, which they're defining as six feet. He wore a mask at all times except when he was on the stage. And everyone Biden travels with is tested beforehand, and masks are required. And the speech today was outdoors, and Biden did cancel a second event that had been planned that would have been indoors.

MOSLEY: And he made some statements wishing the best to the president and the first lady.

DETROW: Yeah, he did. Biden has done that a couple times today. It was very clear to anyone who watched on Tuesday that there is no love lost between these two men. But Biden said he's sincerely praying for President Trump. Jill Biden said that as well today.

MOSLEY: That's NPR political correspondent Scott Detrow.

Scott, thank you.

DETROW: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.