Biden Hasn’t Been Tested for Virus, Aides Say: Campaign Update

Ryan Teague Beckwith and Jennifer Epstein

(Bloomberg) -- Joe Biden has no symptoms linked to coronavirus and has not been tested for the illness, his campaign said Friday in a disclosure intended to highlight the Democratic candidate’s transparency in comparison to President Donald Trump’s comments on his potential exposure to the virus.

”Vice President Biden has no fever, no cough, no shortness of breath or other symptoms consistent with coronavirus, and the campaign has not been informed of or become aware of any relevant contact with an individual who has tested positive,” his campaign’s public health advisory committee said in a statement.

“In keeping with this guidance Biden has not been tested for COVID-19,” the committee said. ”Doing so would be against the advice of public health officials and expend valuable resources that should be dedicated to those most at risk. Biden and his campaign will continue to follow the best practices laid out by public health officials.”

At a news conference at the White House on Friday where he announced a national emergency in response to the coronavirus pandemic, Trump said he would be tested “fairly soon” after he came into contact last weekend with a Brazilian official who was later diagnosed with the virus. But Trump said he would not self-quarantine in the meantime, as people exposed to the illness have been advised to do.

Biden’s Virtual Town Hall Plagued by Glitches (9:13 p.m.)

Joe Biden’s first effort to take his campaign online in response to the coronavirus crisis didn’t go off as planned.

An event billed as a “virtual town hall” with voters in Illinois before that state’s primary on Tuesday was marred by technical difficulties. Its start was delayed, while Biden’s speech was inaudible at times and viewers had trouble asking the former vice president questions.

As worry about the pandemic intensifies, Biden and his presidential rival Bernie Sanders have canceled public events and made plans to reach out to voters online.

Biden made brief remarks about the virus and the plan he rolled out to contain it. He then took a few questions from participants -- the first of whom questioned why it was so difficult to understand him.

The event ended after about 30 minutes, as Biden addressed the technical difficulties. “I’m sorry this has been such a disjointed effort here because of the connections,” he said as he ended the call. “There’s a lot more to say but I’ve probably already said too much to you.” -- Tyler Pager

Trump Re-Election Effort Moves Training Online (5:37 p.m.)

President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign is coming to supporters’ living rooms.

With rallies and other large-scale events canceled or postponed due to the coronavirus, the campaign is moving all of its training for the National Day of Action next week online.

Other training for supporters next week will focus on smartphone apps that are used for phone banking at home.

Both Democrats and Republicans have developed apps in recent years to help get out the vote virtually, but traditional door-to-door canvassing and phone banks at campaign headquarters remained popular because of the social interactions among supporters.

In 2016, the Trump campaign relied on stadium rallies, TV appearances and social media to compensate for its shoestring budget and thin staffing. But campaign manager Brad Parscale said the re-election effort will put volunteers to work. “We have a huge advantage over Democrats and are well on our way toward our goal of 2 million trained volunteers, which means we already have a massive army we can mobilize to help re-elect the president,” Parscale said in a statement.

Sanders Missing the Rallies He ‘Loves to Do’ (3:11 p.m.)

Bernie Sanders says the coronavirus has already dramatically disrupted his campaign, including some things he really enjoys.

Speaking to reporters from his hometown of Burlington, Vermont, Sanders said his campaign staff is “now by and large working from home” while he has had to cancel rallies, which he said he “loves to do.”

“It has significantly impacted our campaign,” he said. “We do more rallies than anyone else.”

Instead, Sanders said the campaign is now doing more livestreaming and plans to utilize online tools like his social media accounts to get the word out, since he cannot campaign in upcoming primary states like Ohio and Florida.

“Under normal circumstances, I would not be in Burlington today,” he said. -- Tyler Pager

Trump Campaign Invokes ‘Corpse’ Image for Biden (1:10 p.m.)

President Donald Trump’s campaign is not easing up on harsh rhetoric despite his recent call for the country to set aside partisanship and unify in light of the coronavirus pandemic.

On Friday morning, the Trump campaign’s official account tweeted to its 1.5 million followers that Biden is a “rotting corpse” and a “dead guy.” Several dozen Americans have died so far from the virus that has almost shut down daily life in the U.S.

“Joe Biden is the same rotting corpse of a candidate he was three weeks ago,” wrote the Team Trump account, referring to the period before Biden was winning primaries. “It’s just that Democrats have decided that they would be better off with the dead guy than with Crazy Bernie.”

That contrasted with Trump’s closing message in an Oval Office address Wednesday night.

“We are all in this together,” he said. “We must put politics aside, stop the partisanship and unify together as one nation and one family.”

Coming Up

Guam will hold a convention on March 14, Northern Mariana will hold a caucus on March 14-15.

Democratic candidates debate again on March 15 in Washington, D.C.

Arizona, Florida, Illinois and Ohio will hold primaries on March 17.

(Disclaimer: Michael Bloomberg, the founder and majority owner of Bloomberg LP, also sought the Democratic presidential nomination. He endorsed Joe Biden on March 4.)

--With assistance from Tyler Pager.

To contact the reporters on this story: Ryan Teague Beckwith in Washington, D.C. at rbeckwith3@bloomberg.net;Jennifer Epstein in Charleston, South Carolina at jepstein32@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Wendy Benjaminson at wbenjaminson@bloomberg.net, Max Berley, John Harney

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