DETROIT (CN) — Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden made a campaign stop in Michigan on Friday in the wake of the bombshell news that President Trump contracted Covid-19, warning Americans to take the virus seriously and encouraging them to wear masks.
The former vice president’s appearance in Grand Rapids marked his second trip to the critical battleground state in less than a month, after stumping in Warren and Detroit on Sept. 9.
Biden tweeted that both he and his wife tested negative for the virus Friday morning after the president and First Lady Melania Trump revealed their diagnoses.
“I’m happy to report that Jill and I have tested negative for Covid. Thank you to everyone for your messages of concern. I hope this serves as a reminder: wear a mask, keep social distance, and wash your hands,” he wrote.
Biden wore a mask that he occasionally tugged while delivering a speech to members of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union Local 951 on Friday afternoon. He explained that the event was delayed three hours because of his virus testing. He said he took two tests: one from a doctor in Delaware and one from a former White House physician.
He opened his remarks in a sympathetic tone when he spoke of Trump’s positive test.
“Sending my prayers for the health and safety of the first lady and the president of the United States after they tested positive for Covid-19,” Biden told supporters. “My wife Jill and I pray that they’ll make a quick and full recovery.”
Biden used the news to implore Americans to be more responsible in the face of the virus that has killed more than 208,000 people in the U.S. alone, and subtly chided Trump’s lax attitude towards the pandemic.
“This is not a matter of politics. We have to take this virus seriously. It’s not going away automatically. It means following the science, listening to the experts,” he said.
“It’s not about being a tough guy, it’s about doing your part,” the vice president added about wearing masks. “We need regular testing, with results turned around rapidly and that’s available to everyone.”
Biden said the nation at large needs to do better in dealing with the pandemic. He did not sugar-coat the current economic situation to his audience, who he commended for being “front-line” food workers putting their lives on the line.
“Once again, we are seeing temporary layoffs turn permanent. This month marked the largest single-month increase in long-term unemployment since we started keeping records in 1948,” he said. “We are now 30 million workers who have either lost hours, lost paychecks or lost their jobs entirely.”
President Trump has boasted in the past about a V-shaped recovery, in which economic activity quickly bounces back to pre-pandemic levels, but Biden suggested Friday it was shaped more like a K-shaped recovery and explained why.
“A ‘K’ means, letter going up, that’s those on the top and keeps going up while everyone else in the middle is going down and below. We’re seeing things get worse,” he said.
The Democratic candidate acknowledged that grocery workers like those in attendance are being left behind by what he called the most unequal economic recovery in history.
“Because while workers are struggling, the top 100 billionaires in America have done pretty well,” he admonished. “This is a scary time.”
The former vice president said he understood the working class because he was raised by middle-class parents who taught him he wasn’t better than anyone.
“Wall Street CEOs didn’t build this country, the middle class built this country. And unions built the middle class,” he said.
Biden gleefully disclosed that conservative-leaning Moody’s Investors Services performed an analysis of his economic plan and projected it would create 18.6 million jobs and growth of $1 trillion.
“That’s not coming from a liberal think tank, that’s coming from Moody’s,” he cracked.
The plan includes raising taxes on anyone making more than $400,000 a year and requiring a higher corporate tax rate.
“No one should be in the position to have to work two jobs just to get above the poverty line,” he added.
Biden also promised to build upon Obamacare and create a public health care option. He said an aggressive 10-year, $700 billion plan would be paid for with the elimination of the Trump-era tax cuts for the wealthy.
As he neared the end of his remarks, Biden spoke about protecting Social Security and making college tuition more affordable.
“I know a lot of people around here are tired of being disrespected,” he said solemnly.
Biden closed the appearance with a pep talk about controlling the Covid-19 crisis.
“We can get this pandemic under control … but this cannot be a partisan moment. It has to be an American moment. We have to come together as a nation,” he said.