What Is Biden's Coronavirus Response Plan?
ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
President Trump's response to the coronavirus has made news since the pandemic began. He keeps arguing that his leadership has saved lives, and he has told Americans to not be, quote, "afraid" of the virus. We've heard less about former Vice President Joe Biden's seven-point plan to fight the pandemic if he wins the election, and NPR's Allison Aubrey has looked into the details.
ALLISON AUBREY, BYLINE: Hey there, Ari.
SHAPIRO: Joe Biden met with his public health advisers today and spoke in Delaware afterwards. What was his message?
AUBREY: You know, we heard him say what he said before, which is, take precautions given the rise in cases.
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JOE BIDEN: We discussed again the vital importance of wearing masks, protecting yourself, protecting your neighbor, and to save around a hundred thousand lives in the months ahead.
AUBREY: He's referring to the estimates from modelers about just how protective masking can be in preventing cases and deaths.
SHAPIRO: So the seven-point plan that his campaign has rolled out, what's in it?
AUBREY: Well, his advisers say we would see a fundamental shift compared to the Trump administration. Specifically, Biden says he would direct the CDC to give much more detailed guidance when to open schools, businesses, when to put in place more stringent restrictions and when to lift them. I spoke to Ezekiel Emanuel. He's a physician, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania. He has advised Biden on health policy. He has no formal position in the campaign, but he says we'd likely see a much more coordinated COVID response.
EZEKIEL EMANUEL: You are going to see, I think, close work with states to get all the states singing from the same hymnal so that we don't have what has, you know, transpired, which is different states doing different things. And you're also going to see a rebuilding of the CDC.
AUBREY: You know, the idea, Ari, is to elevate scientists and have evidence-based metrics so there's no conflicting advice to the public from local leaders, governors and the federal government.
SHAPIRO: We often talk about how this pandemic has disproportionately hit people of color. They have less access to testing, treatment, higher death rates. I know Biden spoke about that today. What's his plan to address it?
AUBREY: You know, one part of the Biden campaign is to establish a U.S. public health corps. These would basically be community health workers - a hundred thousand or more, the campaign says - that could do contact tracing, all sorts of tasks to assist elderly and at-risk communities. I spoke to Dr. Vivek Murthy. He's a former U.S. surgeon general who is a key adviser to Biden.
VIVEK MURTHY: Imagine a public health workforce and in addition to contact tracing - was also helping train school officials in how to reopen safely, that was also helping run public education campaigns. And so a job corps could also help shore up our local departments of health, which are struggling right now and which are really the front line.
AUBREY: Biden says he would pay for these programs through higher taxes on corporations and the wealthiest Americans.
SHAPIRO: Another piece of this puzzle is health insurance coverage.
SHAPIRO: And some Americans have lost theirs as they lost their jobs. What's the Biden campaign proposing to get people covered?
AUBREY: I spoke to his national policy director, Stef Feldman. She says there are some things Biden could do quickly if he were elected. For instance, several governors have asked the Trump administration to make it easier for people to get health insurance through the Obamacare exchanges.
STEF FELDMAN: One of the most immediate steps Vice President Biden would be able to take is to reopen open enrollment as needed. So people who have lost insurance can sign up for new coverage, which is a basic step that President Trump has refused to do.
AUBREY: So she says this is one example of what we'd see if Biden were elected.
SHAPIRO: That is NPR's Allison Aubrey.
AUBREY: Thank you, Ari.
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