How Biden's coronavirus plan compares to Trump's actions, in one point-by-point chart

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trump biden debate
Donald Trump and Joe Biden participate in the first presidential debate at Case Western Reserve University on September 29, 2020. Chris Wallace moderates. Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images
  • The pandemic is center stage in the race between President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden.

  • Nearly 100 million ballots have already been cast ahead of Tuesday's presidential election.

  • Here's how Biden's proposed coronavirus strategy compares to Trump's actions, point by point.

  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Many Americans have already voted on who they want to lead the US's coronavirus response next year. Nearly 100 million ballots have been cast ahead of Tuesday's presidential election — more than two-thirds of the total ballots cast in 2016.

President Donald Trump's handling of the pandemic is, of course, a key issue for voters. Although vaccine development is racing ahead and the US has significantly ramped up testing since the spring, the administration was initially painfully slow to distribute tests and personal protective equipment.

Trump has also been criticized for ignoring and contradicting top public-health experts. The president has suggested that masks are voluntary and erroneously blames increased testing for the US's high case count. His administration at one point even updated guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to suggest that testing asymptomatic people wasn't necessary, despite knowledge that asymptomatic individuals fuel transmission.

Biden, by contrast, emphasizes his desire to let scientists lead the federal coronavirus response. He has championed mask wearing and promised to further expand contact tracing and at-home testing.

Biden and Trump agree on many points, though, including that a vaccine should be free for all Americans. Biden also plans to set aside emergency funding for K-12 education and loans for small businesses during the pandemic — actions Trump has already taken.

Here's a rundown of how Biden's coronavirus plan compares to Trump's actions so far:

'The devil is in the details'

Vice President Mike Pence highlighted the similarities between Trump's and Biden's coronavirus plans at the vice presidential debate last month.

"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."

The candidates do share several important priorities, but public-health experts say they differ in their execution strategies.

"The devil is in the details," Dr. Leana Wen, a public-health professor at George Washington University, told Business Insider. For example, she said, "it's not just a matter of the right to get a test — it's also the ability to get a test."

Experts say Trump's aggressive push to reopen schools and downplay the threat of the virus contradicted science-based guidance, including the White House's own safety criteria.

"A lot of people agreed those [criteria] were very good, but the confusion was that, in my opinion, there wasn't a clear message from the top once those were directed. And, in fact, Trump himself seemed to undermine them," Marissa Levine, a public-health professor at the University of South Florida, told Business Insider.

That's part of the reason why Biden has accused Trump of having "no plan" to lead the country out of the pandemic.

trump day US President Donald Trump departs a rally at Dayton International Airport in Dayton, Ohio September 21, 2020. (Photo by MANDEL NGAN / AFP) (Photo by MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images)
Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

Pence, meanwhile, has criticized Biden's proposed strategy as "a government takeover of healthcare," but experts say that isn't correct.

"It would be inaccurate to characterize the Biden approach as top-down and the Trump approach as empowering local authorities. Actually, it's the opposite," Wen said. "What you really need is to empower the locals to do their work, but you only do that by having the federal government provide the resources to do so."

A clash over testing strategies

The US has now tested more people per capita than most countries: around 370 out of every 100,000 people. But the Trump administration adopted a piecemeal approach to testing, leaving it to states to create testing plans. The consequence, experts say, is that states are pitted against each other for the same supply of tests.

"My former colleagues in all parts of the country are saying that they don't have access to enough tests, and enough rapid tests," Wen said in September. "The federal government is the one that should be using its purchasing power to procure these tests and to make them available to locals."

Biden has pledged to set up at least 10 mobile testing sites and drive-through facilities per state. He has also proposed a program to scale up test manufacturing, similar to what the Trump administration has done for vaccine development.

Trump's Operation Warp Speed program is currently manufacturing vaccine doses in large quantities while clinical trials are ongoing. Experts say that's a strong element of his coronavirus strategy.

"That's in general a good program and a good approach to this vaccine development process," Dr. Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins University Center for Health Security, told Business Insider in August.

Diverging approaches to economic relief

One-third of voters surveyed in a September poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation said the economy would be the most important issue in deciding their vote for president. The coronavirus came second, with 20% of those surveyed saying the pandemic was most important. However, that poll happened before Trump was hospitalized with the virus and before the US's record-breaking third surge in cases.

Joe Biden

Experts say economic recovery is deeply intertwined with the nation's ability to curb the virus' spread.

"We can't solve the business crisis unless we solve the health crisis first," Howard Koh, a professor at the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health, told Business Insider in July. "Every business is in the health business, whether they realize it or not, because they're taking care of their employees, their customers, their communities, and the environment."

Both candidates have pledged additional relief funding for small businesses and individual Americans.

In addition to federal stimulus money, Biden's economic recovery plan includes an emergency fund for state and local governments. The money could go toward cash payments or tax relief for vulnerable individuals, as well as interest-free loans for small- and medium-sized businesses.

The Trump administration has already delivered $3.4 trillion in stimulus aid to local governments, businesses, and individuals. But a second round of stimulus checks did not appear before Election Day.

This story has been updated with new information. It was originally published October 9, 2020.

Read the original article on Business Insider