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Joe Biden tests negative for coronavirus, keeps up campaign schedule

Joe Biden was on a train tour through Ohio and Pennsylvania on Wednesday
Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden embarked on a campaign tour of Pennsylvania and Ohio after his first presidential debate against President Trump this week. On Friday he campaigned in Michigan.
(Andrew Harnik / Associated Press)

While President Trump’s reelection bid has been upended by his COVID-19 diagnosis, his challenger, Joe Biden, kept his campaign apace on Friday, after two tests came back negative.

Biden returned to the trail in Michigan, and his running mate, California Sen. Kamala Harris, traveled to Las Vegas.

The former vice president and his wife, Jill Biden, underwent PCR testing, which uses a nasal swab; Jill Biden also tested negative. Trump and First Lady Melania Trump revealed early Friday (EDT) that they both have the virus.

Biden and Trump appeared onstage together Tuesday night at the presidential debate, which their wives attended.

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Trump has been been transferred to Walter Reed military hospital, where he will remain for several days “out of an abundance of caution,” the White House press secretary said Friday afternoon. His campaign said that scheduled campaign events involving the president would be postponed or held virtually.

In the morning, Joe and Jill Biden sent best wishes to the First Family for a swift recovery. “We will continue to pray for the health and safety of the president and his family,” Biden wrote.

At his sole event in Grand Rapids on Friday, Biden largely stuck to his standard stump speech, vowing to be a president who will not forget working-class communities that have been overlooked. The remarks were nevertheless freighted with the news of the day, as Biden wore a mask for the event’s duration and bookended his comments with well-wishes for the First Family.

“This is not a matter of politics, it’s a bracing reminder to all of us that we have to take this virus seriously,” Biden said.

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He reiterated his call for COVID-conscious practices, especially wearing a face covering mask.

“Be patriotic,” he said. “It’s not about being a tough guy, it’s about doing your part.”

The Biden campaign said it would take down all negative television advertising, but the Trump campaign still accused the vice president of “attacking the president as he was preparing to head to the hospital,” citing references Biden made in his speech about the president’s plan on the economy and Social Security.

Biden aides were urging staff to keep a low public profile. “As this situation continues to unfold, we ask that you refrain from posting about the situation on social media unless otherwise directed by your manager,” campaign manager Jen O’Malley Dillon wrote in a memo.

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While most people only experience mild or no symptoms at all from coronavirus infection, it can take roughly a week or so before severe illness strikes for those who do end up experiencing life-threatening symptoms.

Biden’s negative test results do not mean he is in the clear. It can take several days for the virus to be detected, and experts said more testing is a must. It usually takes five or six days for symptoms to develop, according to MIT Medical, and the incubation period can be as long as 14 days.

If Biden was infected during the debate on Tuesday, “you wouldn’t expect him to be positive today.… I am more interested in how he tests tomorrow and Sunday and Monday,” said Dr. John Swartzberg, a UC Berkeley infectious disease expert. “That is when we really want to look at the test.”

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Harris, who was not in Cleveland for the first presidential debate, and her husband, Doug Emhoff, both tested negative for the virus on Friday morning.

Harris appeared at a grass-roots virtual fundraiser with former President Obama on Friday afternoon, where both politicians kicked off the event by acknowledging Trump and his wife.

“Doug and I are sharing our deepest prayers for the health and recovery of the president and the first lady,” Harris said. “The threat of this virus is real for all of us. Let it be a reminder to all of us that we must remain vigilant and take care of ourselves and take care of each other.”

Obama also said he wished the Trumps a speedy recovery.

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“It’s important I think for all of us to remember that even when we’re in the midst of big political battles with issues that have a lot at stake, that we’re all Americans and we’re all human beings, and we want to make sure everybody is healthy,” Obama said.

At nearly the same time as when the two Democrats were offering best wishes, the Trump campaign sent out a fundraising missive blasting “Lyin’ Obama and Phony Kamala Harris.”

“We all know that Sleepy Joe isn’t fit to be YOUR President,” read the email. “We know it. You know it. And even Obama knows it — that’s why he’s holding a fundraiser with Kamala instead of Joe, who is probably already asleep in his basement.”

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Biden and Trump have taken vastly different approaches to the pandemic, which has killed more than 208,000 people in the U.S. Biden has opted against large campaign rallies, which Trump has continued to hold as recently as Wednesday. Republicans have derided the former vice president’s more limited campaign schedule, mocking him for “hiding in his basement.”

The Democratic nominee has also been more assiduous about wearing a mask in public, per public health guidelines. Trump has occasionally been photographed wearing a face covering, but he had previously said it was unnecessary for him, since he and those around him are tested frequently.

Trump said in the first presidential debate that he wears masks “when needed” but immediately drew a contrast between his rival and himself.

“I don’t wear masks like him,” Trump said. “Every time you see him, he’s got a mask. He could be speaking 200 feet away from them and he shows up with the biggest mask I’ve ever seen.”

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Times staff writers Arit John and Maura Dolan contributed to this report.


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