The US has suffered an estimated 8.46 million cases of Covid-19 and about 223,000 deaths, with concerns growing that the coming autumn influenza season could be about to make matters worse.
“We’re about to go into a dark winter. A dark winter,” Mr Biden told the audience. “[Mr Trump] has no clear plan, and there’s no prospect that there’s going to be a vaccine available for the majority of the American people before the middle of next year.”
The president dismissed the Democrat’s pessimism, responding: “I don’t know if we’re going to have a dark winter at all. We’re opening up our country. We’ve learned and studied and understand the disease, which we didn’t at the beginning.”
Mr Trump insisted the US caseload would have been far worse had he not acted quickly by shutting down international flights from China in March and said he had been praised by other world leaders for his response.
Mr Biden countered that the president had only blocked the flights after 40 other countries had already done so and reminded him that he had wrongly assured the American public that the crisis would be over by Easter.
“Anybody responsible for that many deaths should not remain as president of the United States,” Mr Biden continued. “We’re in a situation where there are now 1,000 deaths a day.”
The contrast between the two men’s positions was further underlined when Mr Trump insisted the country was “learning to live with” the virus.
“We have no choice. We can’t lock ourselves up in a basement like Joe does,” he continued, making a mocking reference to his opponent observing lockdown regulations earlier this year and broadcasting from his home in Wilmington, Delaware, rather than pressing on with in-person campaigning.
“People are learning to die with it,” Mr Biden responded.
One of the president’s own experts, Dr Robert Redfield, director of the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention and a member of the White House coronavirus task force, said earlier this year that he believed winter would be tough.
“The fall and the winter of 2020 and 2021 are going to be probably one of the most difficult times that we’ve experienced in American public health,” Dr Redfield told The Journal of the American Medical Association in a webinar on 15 July.