Joe Biden said on Monday that President Donald Trump bears responsibility for becoming infected with Covid-19 as a result of his frequent refusal to wear a mask while around others.
“Look, anybody who contracts the virus by essentially saying, ‘masks don’t matter; social distancing doesn’t matter’ — I think is responsible for what happens to them,” Biden said during a NBC News town hall hosted by Lester Holt in Miami.
The town hall took place in front of a socially distanced audience. Biden said that if those in attendance took off their masks and crowded around, they too would bear responsibility for what happened.
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“They’re taking responsibility that, in fact, they should be held responsible for, because every major scientist and doctor and immunologist has said that’s a very dangerous thing to do,” Biden said. “The particles and droplets can stay in the air for a long time, longer than they thought.”
Biden’s comments came shortly after Trump left the Walter Reed military hospital after three days of being treated for a coronavirus infection that was disclosed early Friday. Melania Trump, the first lady, also tested positive.
Biden, who is leading Trump in national polls and several swing state surveys, has previously wished both the president and the first lady a speedy recovery.
The Trump campaign didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on Biden’s remarks.
In a video that Trump posted to Twitter shortly after leaving the hospital on Monday, he acknowledged that his actions led to his contraction of the virus, but defended them as necessary.
“As your leader, I had to do that, I knew there was danger to it, but I had to do it,” Trump said. “I stood out front. I led. Nobody that’s a leader would not do what I did. And I know there’s a risk, there’s a danger, but that’s okay.”
Trump mocked Biden’s frequent mask wearing during the first presidential debate, which was hosted on Tuesday. Trump said he wore a mask when needed, but “I don’t wear masks like him. Every time you see him, he’s got a mask.”
Trump said during the debate that Biden’s mask was “the biggest mask I’ve ever seen.”
On Monday, Biden said that he was happy to hear that Trump’s doctors said his condition was improving. But he said that, given his experience with the president, he was not shocked to learn he had become infected.
“Quite frankly, I wasn’t surprised,” he said.
On Wednesday, vice presidential contenders Sen. Kamala Harris and Vice President Mike Pence are due to face off in Salt Lake City.