Jun 17, 2020
Joe Biden PA Speech Transcript on Reopening Country Amid COVID-19
Joe Biden gave remarks on June 17 in Darby, Pennsylvania on reopening the country amid the coronavirus pandemic. Read the full speech transcript here.
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Joe Biden: (00:00)
We thank the local officials for joining today. I know they’ve got a lot to do and they’ve really been very, very busy. Before I begin my remarks, I want to acknowledge that it was five years ago today when a white supremacist walked into Mother Emanuel Church in Charleston, South Carolina and slaughtered a friend of mine, Clementa Pinckney, and eight other parishioners. It was hate unbridled, and it was poisonous, a poisonous expression of white supremacy that still infects our nation and many of our institutions and of the dangers we face as a society if we don’t root out this corrosive and deadly ideology.
Joe Biden: (00:51)
When I reflect back on the amazing grace and compassion and forgiveness of the Mother Emanuel community, I see the very best in what we see in America as Americans, but we know that grace alone is not enough. We have to put it to work, that grace, and we’re seeing the best of America in that as well. In the weeks of peaceful protest, civil action is taking place in cities and towns of every size, in this state and every other state across the country. People are keeping their eyes focused on how danger it is, how much danger it is to live a life of a black or a brown-skinned person in this country, and Americans are out there marching, notwithstanding the fact that we’re in the middle of a pandemic. That’s how critical they think it is.
Joe Biden: (01:50)
On Monday, Donald Trump said, “If we stopped testing right now for COVID-19, we’d have very few cases if any.” If we stopped testing, we’d have very few cases if any. It’s a statement that’s not only absurd, it’s absolutely tragic. Yesterday, the head of the White House task force on coronavirus, the vice president, claimed success in the fight because deaths are “down to fewer than 750 a day.” 750 fathers and mothers, sisters and brothers, uncles, aunts, husbands, wives, children dying every day. More than 20,000 a month. That’s greater than World War II level casualties each month, that’s more than five 9/11s each month, and this administration is engaging in self-congratulations? Maybe good enough for Donald Trump, but it will never, ever be acceptable if I’m your president. Researchers have shown that tens of thousands of Americans have died needlessly because Donald Trump was slow to respond to the crisis and then when he did he bungled the response.
Joe Biden: (03:22)
For weeks in January and February, I but I wasn’t alone, I was raising my concerns about how we need to take this virus seriously, all while Trump was ignoring the reporting from his own intelligence community in his daily briefings, and the warnings of his closest advisors, all the while praising the Chinese government for being transparent in handling this virus instead of demanding access for the CDC that Beijing was refusing to give in Wuhan. The American people have sacrificed so much to fight this virus. We’ve lost lives, we’ve lost businesses, we’ve lost paychecks, and now thanks to Donald Trump’s bungling, we may lose some of the progress we begun to make. All because he’s lost interest. He’s once again ignoring the facts. The public health response is still woefully, woefully lacking from this administration. More than 117,000 people have died in the United States of America, with an average daily number of cases still climbing in 21 states.
Joe Biden: (04:51)
We still don’t have what we need when it comes to rapid results testing, contact tracing capacity, widely available personnel protective equipment for them, or clear nationwide guidance. Instead, President Trump pushes dangerous disproven drugs, stands in the way of the CDC issuing guidelines on reopening. They had them, wanted to issue them and he wouldn’t let them. He refuses to wear a mask, failing even the most basic test of leadership. He scaled back meetings of the COVID-19 task force. I guess there’s not much to do in spite of experts saying that testing and tracing is necessary for reopening, he sent his testing czar home. The money provided to the Pentagon for essential medical supplies, only 15%, only 15% has made it out the door.
Joe Biden: (06:11)
Donald Trump wants to style himself as a wartime president against this invisible enemy, the coronavirus. Unlike any other war, any other wartime leader, he takes no responsibility, he exercises no leadership, and now he’s just flat surrendering the fight. Instead of leading the charge to defeat the virus, he just basically waved a white flag and has retreated [inaudible 00:06:45] to get back on his campaign, to his campaign rallies that he’ll put people at risk as everyone’s pointed out, in violation of the CDC Guidelines that still warn against large gatherings as long as he’s going to allow this to happen, but he’s ready to do it as long as, notwithstanding CDC guidance, as long as the people showing up sign a waiver promising they’ll not hold the campaign liable.
Joe Biden: (07:20)
Donald Trump’s failure to fight the coronavirus with the same energy and focus that he uses to troll his enemies on Twitter has cost us lives and is putting hope for an economic recovery at risk. Job numbers and retail sales were better than expected in May, and that’s great news for the country, but now Donald Trump’s desire to declare victory and be done with it is only going to imperil the continued progress we have to make. Our economy is still sputtering, with more than 20 million people unemployed and no clear guidance from the federal government for what businesses need to do to reopen safely, efficiently, and generate a strong recovery.
Joe Biden: (08:16)
This isn’t a debate about whether to reopen. It’s about how we make reopening work for everyone. The employees at the White House, they get daily COVID-19 tests. They know they’re safe before they go to work and they know their co-workers are safe. They have the confidence to resume their lives. Workers across the country aren’t asking for daily testing. They’re just asking for regular, reliable access to tests. Don’t they deserve that?
Joe Biden: (08:55)
So it’s not that Donald Trump doesn’t recognize the importance of testing, it’s that he’s not up to the task or doesn’t care and now he’s seemingly decided he doesn’t even want to try, but just like he couldn’t wish COVID-19 away in March, just like he couldn’t tweet it away in April, he can’t ignore it away in June. So I have some basic questions for President Donald Trump. What are you going to do to make sure every worker has access to regular testing so they have the same confidence to go into a store or go back to work that White House staffers have? Why are you leaving schools and child care centers to navigate the uncertainty all on their own without an effective guidance and resources that they need to protect the kids and their communities? Why don’t you enforce the OSHA standards for worker protection during this global pandemic? Why is it the Main Street Lending Program created more than two months ago by the Congress to help struggling small businesses only opened for registration to lenders two days ago, and still hasn’t distributed a single penny. Why don’t you disclose the names, Mr. President, of the businesses that received a total of $500 billion in taxpayer’s funding? Why are they being hidden?
Joe Biden: (10:49)
How many cronies got bailouts? How many donors? How many big businesses that didn’t need it? What business had to shut down because they were denied funding in April? What businesses didn’t get special approval that others got by a nod from the top? Why did you get rid of the watchdog, Mr. President? Why did you get rid of the watchdog, appointed to oversee every dollar distributed, an inspector general? Why did you get rid of that person the Congress passed? What are you trying to hide? It’s bad management on top of bad planning on top of neglect and it’s totally unacceptable for a great nation like ours.
Joe Biden: (11:55)
Folks, here’s the truth. The pandemic is still here. It’s going to be here for the foreseeable future until we get it under control or until we have safe and proven widely available vaccine. COVID-19 is a fact of nature. We have to deal with this virus and everything that comes with it. We have to deal with it head on, honestly, tell the people the truth. To paraphrase Franklin Roosevelt in the Depression, the American people can handle anything, just tell them the truth. We can’t deal with it the way you’re doing it. The only way to deal with it, Mr. President, if we put in the work, investing and building a dynamic, resilient economy and health system capable of getting and then staying ahead of new outbreaks. We have the capacity and the resources to do that. I have laid out baseline steps of what needs to be done from make it work checklists for a successful accountable recovery that I put out back in early April to the steps for a strong reopening that I released last week. It’s not rocket science. Granted I have incredible scientists advising me on almost a daily basis on how to proceed, but it’s not rocket science, it’s common sense.
Joe Biden: (13:35)
It’s straightforward, and that’s why this is perhaps the greatest indictment of Donald Trump’s complete, compelling lack of leadership. He wasted months and months and months passing the buck, blaming everyone else, refusing to act when he should have been preparing our country for a longterm response and building our resiliency to respond to future flareups. Yet we still don’t have a comprehensive system for collecting COVID-19 case data. These are the basics. He should have been preparing us to weather the valleys and peaks of this virus. He should have been working to shore up the vulnerabilities in our healthcare system that have been laid bare in this crisis that he’s trying to eliminate in court. He should have been working to bridge the inequities and strengthen the cracks in the foundation of our economic system that are exposed for everyone to see. He hasn’t done any of it. Because of the depth of Donald Trump’s failures, this pandemic will continue to be worse for all Americans and much worse for black and brown Americans who are getting hit the hardest.
Joe Biden: (15:03)
Folks in communities like [inaudible 00:15:06], Donald Trump thinks if he puts his head in the sand, the American people will too, but it doesn’t work that way. Not when hundreds of people are still dying every day and millions are unemployed wondering how in God’s name are they going to keep the lights on and food on the table. Not when workers are weighed down with worries about their safety or what happens if they get sick. There are the steps that we need to be taking now to steer us steadily and strongly in the right direction, see us through this time, to make a more resilient future. They’re all available.
Joe Biden: (15:44)
First, we have to do everything we can to avoid deadly spikes in the infections as people begin to back out into the world. We’re not that much better prepared today for the run of cases that overfills our intensive care units than we were three months ago. Second, we have to help give people the assurance and precautions that are necessary to restart the economy with confidence. If Americans lose what faith they have left, what little faith they have left in the government’s ability to manage this pandemic, we’ll see much deeper and longer lasting economic impacts than we even, and with even greater repercussions for people’s well-being.
Joe Biden: (16:38)
Mr. President, don’t leave the American people to face this threat on their own with no guidance, resources, or leadership from the federal government. Don’t let support from the CARES Act expire next month while people are still hurting. Don’t leave our frontline workers exposed without the resources they need and don’t waste any more of our time, Mr. President. The American people need confidence and clear guidance grounded in science that’s going to allow them to resume their daily lives. American businesses need the support of the federal government to continue to backstop them through this phases of reopening and workers need assurances that their health is your first concern. Americans need a president who will put the American people first, not his or her own ego. America needs a president who will do the work. I’m ready on Day One, after more than three years in office, why isn’t Donald Trump ready? Mr. President, wake up. Get to work. There is so much more to be done. Thank you.