As the number of U.S. COVID-19 cases per day reaches record levels, millions of voters are deciding whether former Vice President Joe Biden or President Donald Trump will lead them through the rest of the pandemic. The recent increase in cases is driven by the spread in rural communities, including parts of Wisconsin, Iowa, and Minnesota.
So far, the disease has killed more than 231,000 people in the United States and more than 9 million Americans have contracted the virus. The pandemic ranks second to the economy among issues guiding voters’ decisions, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.
We examined the candidates’ speeches, tweets and websites before comparing their plans for handling the COVID-19 pandemic. We ranked their level of support for the issue and how specifically they addressed it.
We assigned each quote a score from 0 to 6, with 0 representing strong opposition to the issue, and 6, indicating strong support for the issue. The graphics show an average score for each candidate’s quotes and/or plans on a specific issue.
According to New York Times reporting, most states have lifted lockdowns and restrictions on businesses, leaving mask guidelines and social distancing rules in place. However, some governors have again closed certain sectors of the economy or considered implementing new restrictions. California, Illinois and New York are among those states reversing their reopening.
“They said would I lock down the – the economy if science said so. I said I’d follow science. What I – but I don’t think there’s a need to lock down.”
“I would make sure that we set up national standards as to how to open up schools and open up businesses so they can be safe, and give them the wherewithal and financial resources to be able to do that.”
“If you have a reproduction rate in a community that’s above a certain level, everybody says, slow up. More social distancing. Do not open bars and do not open gymnasiums. Do not open until you get this under control, under more control. But when you do open, give the people the capacity to be able to open and have the capacity to do it safely. For example schools – schools, they need a lot of money to open. They need to deal with ventilation systems, they need to deal with smaller classes, more teachers, more pods.”
According to Trump’s second term agenda he plans for returning to normal in 2021.
“People know what to do – they can social distance, they can wash their hands, they can wear a mask, they can do whatever they want – but they’ve got to open these states up. People want their schools open. They don’t want to be shut down. They don’t want their states to be shut down. They want their restaurants.”
“Lockdowns are killing countries all over the world. The cure cannot be worse than the problem itself. Open up your states, Democrat governors. Open up New York. A long battle, but they finally did the right thing!”
“We had the greatest economy we ever had. We had to close it down, we saved 2 million lives. We’re opening it up. We have a V-shape and it’s coming back. It’s coming back very fast.”
“You can’t let this continue to go on with the lockdowns.”
According to data compiled by Education Week, most decisions about school reopenings have been made on the local level, with states providing guidelines or recommendations. Only a handful of states have ordered every student to spend their school days inside classrooms.
Biden plans to provide funds for child care providers and schools – particularly Title I schools – to cover costs of personal protective equipment, training, adjustments of classes, buses and sanitation, according to the plan on reopening schools.
“You make sure there’s testing. That’s a really critical piece that he didn’t do, testing and tracing. And you make sure that people are equipped going to schools.”
“We need more teachers in our schools to be able to open, smaller pods. We need ventilation systems change.”
In August, the Trump administration declared teachers “essential worke” in a move aimed at pushing school districts to open for in-person instruction.
“The support my administration is providing would allow every state to, on a very regular basis, test every teacher who needs it.”
“Get your governor to open up your state. And get your schools open!”
“It happens. People have it, and it goes. Get the kids back to school.”
With the Senate adjourned on Oct. 26 and not scheduled to return until Nov. 9, there is little hope for a new stimulus package to be approved before Election Day.
“We should be providing the money the House has passed in order to be able to go out and get people the help they need to keep their businesses open.”
“I would like to see a bigger stimulus package, frankly, than either the Democrats or the Republicans are offering.”
“If Nancy Pelosi and I, through my representatives or directly, I don’t care, if we agree to something, the Republicans will agree to it.”
“After the election, we’ll get the best stimulus package you’ve ever seen.”
According to Yahoo Money, at least 46 states have paid out all benefits available under the Lost Wages Assistance (LWA) program, and the remaining will just pay for the weeks up to Sept. 5. The program was created by an Aug. 8 executive memo from Trump in an attempt to bypass stalled negotiations on a stimulus bill in Congress.
According to Biden’s Jobs and Economic Recovery Plan, he will create a health crisis unemployment initiative to help all workers facing a loss of work due to the COVID-19 crisis. Biden also plans to ensure unemployment benefits are available to those who lose jobs but would be denied benefits for a variety of reasons.
Part of his plan includes extending COVID-19 crisis unemployment insurance to help those who are out of work, as well as providing employment relief for those with reduced hours or work-sharing arrangements.
Biden states that he will provide employment relief for domestic workers, caregivers, gig workers, or independent contractors who face reduced pay and hours.
Biden also plans to provide guaranteed emergency paid sick leave and caregiving leave. The paid leave plan will create a federal fund to cover 100% of weekly salaries or average weekly earnings capped at $1,400 a week.
The Trump administration’s latest proposal included a second round of direct payments of up to $1,200 for adults and $1,000 for children; expanded unemployment benefits at $400 per week, and additional funding for state and local governments.
In March, Congress created the Paycheck Protection Program, aimed at funneling billions of dollars through banks to businesses that were suffering from widespread lockdowns. However, the program failed to get enough money to the most vulnerable business owners, according to a congressional report published by House Democrats this month. More than 97,966 businesses have permanently shut down during the pandemic, according to Yelp.com’s Local Economic Impact Report published last month.
According to Biden’s plan, he will provide grants for businesses to cover the costs of restarting and establish a temporary small- and medium-sized business loan facility. He will also establish and enforce health and safety standards for workplaces.
Expanding access to effective personal protective equipment, including through the use of the Defense Production Act, also is one of the priorities of the plan.
“We should be bailing them out now, those small businesses. You’ve got one in six of them going under.”
“The House & Senate should IMMEDIATELY Approve 25 Billion Dollars for Airline Payroll Support, & 135 Billion Dollars for Paycheck Protection Program for Small Business. Both of these will be fully paid for with unused funds from the Cares Act. Have this money. I will sign now!”
Most states currently require people to wear face coverings in public with details different for each state, according to Masks4All, a volunteer organization that advocates for more mask-wearing. States without mask mandates have seen residents refusing to wear masks even amid soaring cases and hospitalizations, according to The Washington Post.
“Every single American should be wearing a mask when they’re outside for the next three months at a minimum. Every governor should mandate mandatory mask-wearing.”
“Let’s institute a mask mandate, nationwide, starting immediately – and we will save lives.”
“You can’t mandate a mask. But you can say – you can go to every governor and get them all in a room, all 50 of them, as president, and say, ask people to wear the mask.”
“By the way, a lot of people don’t want to wear masks. There are a lot of people that think the masks are not good.”
“Look, look, you have, on the masks, you have two stories. You have a story where they want, a story where they don’t want. I am all for it.”
According to a New York Times analysis, the number of daily coronavirus tests being conducted nationwide is 55% of the level considered necessary to mitigate the spread of the virus.
Biden wants to make testing widely available and free. He stated that the number of tests must be in the millions, not the thousands.
He also plans to establish at least 10 mobile testing sites and drive-through facilities per state to speed testing and protect health care workers in collaboration with private-sector health care entities.
Expanding Centers for Disease Control and Prevention sentinel surveillance programs and other surveillance programs to offer tests not only to those who ask but also to those who may not know to ask is also on Biden’s Plan to Combat Coronavirus.
“I would make sure we move in the direction of rapid testing, investing in rapid testing.”
“I’m pleased to report that we’re announcing our plan to distribute 150 million Abbott rapid point-of-care tests in the coming weeks – very, very soon. This will be more than double the number of tests already performed. And here’s our plan: Fifty million tests will go to protect the most vulnerable communities, which we’ve always promised to do, including 18 million for nursing homes; 15 million for assisted living facilities; 10 million for home, health, and hospece (sic) care – hospice care agencies; and nearly 1 million for historically black colleges and universities, and also tribal nation colleges.”
According to a statement from the Department of Health & Human Services, 100 million tests are being shipped on an ongoing, weekly basis to governors. These tests are largely being deployed to local health departments, K-12 schools and institutes of higher education, nursing homes, hospitals and correctional facilities. The other 50 million tests are being shipped directly to congregate care settings such as nursing homes, assisted living facilities, home health, hospice, the Indian Health Service, and historically black colleges and universities.
One hundred million rapid point-of-care tests will be given to states and territories to support efforts to reopen their economies and schools immediately and fast as they can.
“By the end of (October), we will have over 100 million tests available in the market. More than half will be point-of-care tests – those are the quick ones and they’re really the ones that have the best impact with the results in less than 15 minutes.”
For the past five months, USA TODAY has asked a dozen or more experts about all aspects of vaccine development and placed vaccine development predictions on a 12-hour clock, on which midnight, the starting point, is the moment in early January when the world became aware of the virus known as SARS-CoV-2, and noon is the time a vaccine will become widely available. The panel of experts has set the countdown clock to a widely available vaccine to 8 a.m., nearing three-quarters of the way there.
“Even if we get a vaccine, it will not be available for most of the population until well into 2021.”
“Every serious company is talking about maybe having a vaccine done by the end of the year, but the distribution of that vaccine will not occur until sometime beginning of the middle of next year to get it out, if we get the vaccine.”
“Most scientists say that it’s not likely to have a vaccine that would be available until the beginning of next year, into the spring of next year.”
“I would think that we should be talking about – depending on the continuation of the spread of the virus, we should be thinking about making it mandatory.”
“Well, we’re going to deliver it right away. We have the military all set up. Logistically, they’re all set up. We have our military that delivers soldiers and they can do 200,000 a day. ”
“We have finalized a partnership with CVSHealth and Walgreens to deliver the Coronavirus vaccine, when approved, directly to nursing homes – at no cost to seniors.”
“Develop a vaccine by the end of 2020.”
“We’re very close to that vaccine as you know and I think much closer than I think most people want to say.”
“I think there will be vaccine (that’ll) initially be available sometime between November and December, but very limited supply and will have to be prioritized. If you’re asking me when is it going to be generally available to the American public so we can begin to take advantage of vaccine to get back to our regular life, I think we’re probably looking at late second quarter, third quarter 2021.”
“We’ll be able to distribute at least 100 million vaccine doses by the end of 2020 and a large number much sooner than that.”
“We have a vaccine that’s coming, it’s ready. It’s going to be announced within weeks.”
The FDA has approved the antiviral medication remdesivir for treatment in patients with COVID-19 – the first drug to receive that status. However, the World Health Organization’s (WHO’s) Solidarity trial showed that the drug does not reduce mortality or the time COVID-19 patients take to recover. The anti-malaria drugs chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine were originally granted emergency use, which was later revoked after studies found that it’s “unlikely to be effective in treating COVID-19.”
Biden’s plans include ensuring the National Institutes of Health and the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority are swiftly accelerating the development of rapid diagnostic tests, therapeutics and medicines, and vaccines. NIH must be responsible for the clinical trial networks and work closely with the Food and Drug Administration on trial approvals.
The candidate also plans to fully fund and expand authority for the National Disaster Medical System to reimburse health care providers for COVID-19-related treatment costs not directly covered by health insurance.
“We have the vaccines coming and we have the therapies coming.”
“I want to get you the same care that I got, I got incredible treatment at Walter Reed Medical Center, with incredible doctors, and this one medicine, in particular, was unbelievable. You are going to get the same medicine, and you are going to get it free, and soon. The medicine is made by a number of companies it’s totally safe, but it is powerful against this disease.”
“We have Regeneron, we have a very similar drug from Eli Lilly, and they’re coming out, and we’re trying to get them on an emergency basis. We’ve authorized it, I’ve authorized it, and if you’re in the hospital and you’re feeling really bad, I think we’re going to work it so that you get ‘em, and you’re going to get ‘em free.”
“Great company, two great companies actually make it, make very similar things. But they both work equally well. And we’re going to send it, we’re already sending it and starting the processes. Hundreds of thousands of vials are being sent to the hospitals all over the country. People are going to get immediately better, like I did.”
“We got to get it there fast, that’s why I’m doing an emergency use authorization, I got to get them to approve it really fast. “
According to a Brookings Institute report, many essential workers did not receive adequate access to the necessary personal protective equipment. Since nearly 90% of essential workers are not covered by a union contract, their ability to ensure safe workplaces is limited.
According to Biden’s Plan for Essential Workers, he will enact premium pay for frontline workers putting themselves at risk with additional funding to attract workers to serve as health and home care workers and first responders. The candidate also stated that he will protect health care workers, assisted living staff, and other essential workers.
Making all critical medicines and supplies for health care workers in the United States is part of Trump’s second-term agenda.
PHOTOS: AP; AFP; Getty Images; CDC