President Donald Trump and President-Elect Joe Biden have proposed dueling strategies to combat the spread of COVID-19 with Trump supporting a state-based, local approach and Biden favoring a uniform federal response.
Vice President Mike Pence, however, noted similarities between the plans during the lone vice-presidential debate in October.
“When you look at the Biden plan, it reads an awful lot like what President Trump and I and our task force have been doing every step of the way,” Pence said. “And quite frankly, when I look at their plan that talks about advancing testing, creating new PPE, developing the vaccine — it looks a little bit like plagiarism.”
But there are a few differences, which are seen primarily in their views on contact tracing, mask policies and reopening plans.
Biden, during his campaign, frequently floated the idea of a national mask mandate, though he acknowledged that it is up to the states to implement laws. The president-elect reportedly said he will issue a mask mandate on all federal property but promised to work with state and local governments regarding their own laws.
“A national mandate is not possible because public health powers belong to the states, not the federal government,” Lawrence Gostin, director of Georgetown University’s O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law, told USA Today. “The federal government couldn’t implement its own mask mandates, nor could it force the states to do it.” (RELATED: Here’s Where The Head Of Biden’s COVID-19 Advisory Board Stands On Masks)
Meanwhile, Trump’s state-by-state approach relied on local governments to enact policies based on their own circumstances. Trump announced the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) April recommendation that citizens wear masks “when in public with people outside of their household.” But the president said he didn’t think he would do it. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) acknowledges in their testing strategy, which was obtained by The Daily Caller, that the “solution to spread by asymptomatic individuals is universal mask wearing when physical distancing is impossible.”
Trump’s own views on masks have varied. But in July, Trump tweeted that wearing a mask is patriotic “when you can’t socially distance.”
We are United in our effort to defeat the Invisible China Virus, and many people say that it is Patriotic to wear a face mask when you can’t socially distance. There is nobody more Patriotic than me, your favorite President! pic.twitter.com/iQOd1whktN
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 20, 2020
Biden’s transition strategy proposes a national contact tracing plan. The president-elect, according to his transition team’s webpage, will aim to “mobilize at least 100,000 Americans across the country” to “perform “culturally competent approaches to contact tracing.”
The Trump administration, according to the HHS testing strategy, required states to develop their own testing strategies, which included their plans for contact tracing. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said during COVID-19 stimulus negotiations in October that the administration’s package included funds for contact tracing, CNBC reported.
“That issue is getting overblown,” Mnuchin said. “We’ve agreed to $178 billion overall for health. It’s an extraordinary amount of money. We’d agreed with the Democrats with $75 billion going to testing, contact tracing.”
The Biden transition team’s website says their plan to reopen communities would rely on scientific data to determine when to “open or close certain businesses, bars, restaurants, and other spaces; when to open or close schools, and what steps they need to take to make classrooms and facilities safe, and when to issue stay-at-home restrictions.”
Michael Osterholm, a coronavirus advisor on Biden’s transition team and the director of the Center of Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, told Yahoo Finance that a paid multi-week shutdown could curb the spread and stimulate the economy until a vaccine is available.
“We could pay for a package right now to cover all of the wages, lost wages for individual workers, for losses to small companies, to medium-sized companies or city, state, county governments. We could do all of that,” Osterholm said. “If we did that, then we could lock down for four to six weeks.”
But Osterholm clarified his comments in an interview with CNBC, saying the paid lockdown was not a policy recommendation.
“My only point was if we are going to keep making restrictions state-by-state, there is no compensation for the businesses that are being impacted,” he added. “What we’re doing right now is not working.”
Trump’s plan similarly follows CDC guidelines, which include mask wearing and social distancing recommendations in a 3-phase re-opening strategy. The president throughout the summer, and into campaign season, pressed governors to keep their economies open and has been critical of governors slow to re-open. Trump accused Democrats in a July interview with FOX News’ Chris Wallace of slowing the process to hurt him politically, saying “Democrats are purposely keeping their schools closed, keeping their states closed.”
Admiral Brett Giroir told ABC’s Martha Raddatz in an interview that aired Sunday, that with proper safety precautions, communities might not face full scale shutdowns.
“We don’t have to close schools. We don’t have to close major industries. But we are going to have to be careful around the holiday time, because even a large gathering within your household can be a way that it can spread,” Giroir said.