Democratic vice presidential pick Sen. Kamala Harris on Wednesday blamed President Donald Trump for the severity of the coronavirus outbreak in the United States, saying Trump is “delusional” and failed to take the virus “seriously from the start.”

“This virus has impacted almost every country, but there’s a reason it has hit America worse than any other advanced nation. It’s because of Trump’s failure to take it seriously from the start,” Harris said. She spoke in Wilmington, Delaware, during her first joint appearance with former Vice President Joe Biden since she became his running mate Tuesday.

“His refusal to get testing up and running, his flip-flopping on social distancing and wearing masks, his delusional belief that he knows better than the experts — all of that is the reason and the reason an American dies of Covid-19 every 80 seconds,” she said. 

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In response to Harris’ remarks, Trump campaign communications director Tim Murtaugh said the president “has been leading the nation through the coronavirus crisis and restricted travel from China, and then Europe, way back in January.”

“Joe Biden called it xenophobic and fear-mongering,” Murtaugh said. “We now know that the President’s decision saved countless thousands of American lives and that Joe Biden would not have done it. If Joe Biden had been president, we would be in a much worse situation today.”

The U.S. has the worst coronavirus outbreak in the world with more than 5 million cases and at least 165,328 deaths as of Wednesday, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

Trump has repeatedly blamed China for causing the pandemic and exacerbating it in the U.S., saying China early on hid the extent of its outbreak. However, public health experts blame the surge of cases in the U.S. on failures in the Trump administration, saying it failed to act quickly to contain the virus, still lacks a coordinated response between the federal government and states and made early missteps on testing.

Democratic vice presidential candidate Senator Kamala Harris speaks at a campaign event, on her first joint appearance with presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden after being named by Biden as his running mate, at Alexis Dupont High School in Wilmington, Delaware, August 12, 2020.

Carlos Barria | Reuters

“When other countries are following the science, Trump pushed miracle cures he saw on Fox News,” Harris said. “While other countries were flattening the curve, he said the virus would just, poof, go away, quote ‘like a miracle.’ So when other countries opened back up for business, what did we do? We had to shut down again.”

During the same event, Biden vowed, if he is elected, that his administration “will have a comprehensive plan to meet the challenge of Covid-19 and turn the corner on this pandemic.”

“Masking, clear science-based guidance, dramatically scaling up testing, getting states and local governments the resources they need to open the schools and businesses safely,” he said. 

He asked Trump and Vice President Mike Pence to “take responsibility” for the outbreak.

“With more than 5 million reported infections and 165,000 people dead and climbing as a consequence of Covid-19 and still months later no real leadership or plan from the president of the United States how to get this pandemic under control. No real help for the states and local governments trying to fill the vacuum of leadership from the White House,” he said.

On Tuesday, Biden announced Harris as his running mate, fulfilling his pledge to select a woman and making Harris the first Black woman ever to appear on a major party ticket.

Biden’s pick of Harris as his vice presidential candidate brings him a powerful ally in the fight against the coronavirus if the Democratic Party slate wins the 2020 presidential election. 

Harris has pushed for free Covid-19 testing and free masks as well as legislation aimed at addressing health-care disparities in communities of color as the virus continues to rapidly spread throughout the United States. The senator from California has called for a slew of changes aimed at protecting Americans, including federal laws barring landlords from evicting renters and monthly checks for people who make less than $120,000.

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