Americans cannot become “numb” to COVID-19 as the death count reaches 200,000, Joseph R. Biden said Monday, saying complacency will cost more lives and using a speech in Wisconsin to fault President Trump for the world-leading toll of fatal cases.
“200,000 deaths, all across this nation and it means there are empty chairs at dining room tables and kitchen tables that weeks ago were filled with love ones — a mom or dad or brother or sister,” Mr. Biden said in Manitowoc.
“What worries me now is we’ve been living with this pandemic so long we’re risking becoming numb to the toll it has taken on the country and communities like this,” the Democratic nominee and former vice president said. “We can’t let the numbers become statistics and background noise, just a blur that we see on the nightly news.”
Six weeks before the election, he pinned the crisis — one of the “gravest losses of American life in history” — on Mr. Trump, faulting his lukewarm support for mask-wearing as he presides over rallies from the podium.
While supporters pack into the signature events, “Trump keeps his distance,” Mr. Biden said.
He also scolded the president for acknowledging the virus’s dangers to author Bob Woodward in early February even as he likened the disease to “just the flu” publicly.
Mr. Trump says he wanted to show leadership, not cause a panic.
“Trump panicked. The virus was too big for him,” Mr. Biden said. “He just wasn’t up to it. He froze, he failed to act, he panicked. And America has paid the worst price of any nation in the world.”
Johns Hopkins University’s closely watched tracker said 199,700 people in the U.S. had died of the virus in the U.S. as of mid-afternoon Monday, meaning the nation will likely hit 200,00 by the end of the day or early Tuesday.
Mr. Trump says he saved millions of lives with travel restrictions earlier this year and likes to compare his performance favorably to Mr. Biden’s performance as vice president during the H1N1 pandemic in 2009-2010, although an estimated 12,000 died during that crisis.
“It was a much less lethal situation [in terms of the pathogen itself], but it was handled so badly. They lost thousands and thousands of people,” Mr. Trump told “Fox and Friends” on Monday.
His administration frequently points to travel restrictions, efforts to build ventilators and key therapies, such as remdesivir, as proof of a competent response to the pandemic.
Mr. Trump also says a vaccine is proceeding at a record-breaking pace and should be available before the end of the year.