Joe Biden has said Donald Trump’s positive test for Covid-19 was a “bracing reminder" of the need to take seriously an illness that has killed hundreds of Americans.
In an impassioned, fired-up campaign speech, delivered just hours after the president revealed he and the First Lady had tested positive and barely an hour before he was taken to Walter Reed Army Medical Centre, Mr Biden said he and his family were sending their best wishes to them.
Yet, despite his insistence that the issue was not about politics, he suggested very clearly that Mr Trump was at least partly responsible for what had befallen him.
“I’d like to start by acknowledging, which I'm sure you do as well, what has happened and sending my prayers for the health and safety of the First Lady and the president of the United States. I pray that they'll make a quick and full recovery,” he said.
“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. We have to do our part.”
He said that included following the science, listening to experts, washing hands and social distancing. “It means wearing a mask and encouraging others to do so,” he said.
While Mr Biden did not attack Mr Trump directly, deciding to reach for the high ground, his words on Friday afternoon in Michigan did amount to a clear and stern admonishment of the president’s policies, and response to the coronavirus pandemic that has killed at least 207,000 Americans infected more than 7.2m.
Whereas the former vice president has repeatedly stressed the need to wear masks and to observe social distancing, to the extent that he was confined to streaming campaign speeches from his Delaware home, Mr Trump has held rallies across the country, played down the risk of the virus and almost never worn a mask.
Even at their presidential debate on Tuesday night, a loud, ugly event in which Mr Trump repeated talked over Mr Biden, he mocked his habit of wearing a mask.
“I don't wear masks like him. Every time you see him, he's got a mask,” he said. “He could be speaking 200 feet away from it, he shows up with the biggest mask I've ever seen.”
With no small irony, it was feared Mr Biden too may have been exposed to the virus as a result of his encounter with Mr Trump, whose family members and top aides arrived at the event in Ohio wearing masks but quickly took them off inside, despite being advised to keep them on by medical staff at the venue.
By contrast, Mr Biden’s wife Jill, wore one throughout. At Grand Rapids on Friday, Mr Biden sounded stern at times, perhaps an indication of the risk he and his family had been placed in.
He told reporters he had been cleared to travel to Michigan after he and his wife twice tested negative for the virus.
“Be patriotic,” Mr Biden said, urging everyone to wear a mask. “It’s not about being a tough guy. It's about doing your part.”
Later on Friday, it emerged Mr Trump was being transferred to Walter Reed Medical Hospital in Washington DC for tests.
“President Trump remains in good spirts, has mild symptoms, and has been working throughout the day,” said press secretary Kayleigh McEnany. “Out of an abundance of caution, and at the recommendation of his physician and medical experts, the President will be working from the presidential offices at Walter Reed for the next few days. President Trump appreciates the outpouring of support for both he and the first lady.”
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