President Donald Trump on Friday promised supporters at a rally in Florida that the coronavirus pandemic would end soon and accused Democratic rival Joe Biden of overstating the health crisis to scare Americans into voting for him.
The pandemic, which has killed more than 223,000 people in the United States and cost millions more their jobs, has become the dominant issue of the campaign, with Trump on the defensive over his administration’s handling of the crisis.
Biden earlier in the day said Trump had given up on containing the virus and promised if he wins the Nov. 3 election that he will ask Congress to pass a comprehensive COVID-19 bill which he would sign within the first 10 days of taking office.
“He’s quit on America. He just wants us to grow numb,” Biden said during a speech in his home city of Wilmington, Delaware. “I’m not going to shut down the economy. I’m not going to shut down the country. I’m going to shut down the virus.”
Trump, at the first of two rallies planned on Friday in the battleground state of Florida, mocked Biden for saying in Thursday night’s presidential debate that the United States was entering a “dark winter.”
He said the former vice president and his Democratic allies were trying to scare people by overstating the virus threat.
“We’re going to quickly end this pandemic,” Trump, who has played down the threat since it started, said in The Villages, a sprawling retirement community in central Florida.
“Normal life will fully resume.”
Researchers at the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation on Friday warned the virus could kill more than half a million people in the United States by the end of February 2021. Roughly 130,000 lives could be saved if everybody wore masks, according to the study.
With 11 days left until the election, more than 52 million Americans have already voted, a record-setting pace.