Joe Biden tested negative for the coronavirus and pressed on with in-person campaigning Friday as President Donald Trump’s hospitalization with the virus seismically altered the race and threw the government into upheaval.
Biden flew on Friday afternoon to Grand Rapids, Mich., where he delivered remarks about the economy and emphasized the dangers of the pandemic. In a preview of how the former vice president may discuss the developments in the days to come, he cast his opponent’s positive test as a vivid illustration of the public health risks at play but offered Trump wishes for a speedy recovery. His campaign also moved to take down negative ads.
“This is not a matter of politics,” said Biden, who revealed that he had been tested twice Friday. “It’s a bracing reminder to all of us that we have to take this virus seriously. It’s not going away automatically. We have to do our part to be responsible.”
Biden campaign officials and allies said Friday that the Democratic nominee planned to continue in-person travel, although Biden acknowledged canceling an additional stop later Friday.
“Based on the crowd size and an indoor — it was concluded by the docs that best not to do it,” he said.
Biden had refrained from holding in-person events for months as the nation struggled to confront the virus. He had only recently — and cautiously — begun to campaign on the ground consistently in key battleground states, amid concerns from local Democrats that he had not been visible enough.
But Biden’s team now believes it has developed a good model for campaigning safely in battleground states, defined by mask-wearing, social distancing and carefully planned gatherings that limit the number of attendees. While Biden does not always wear a mask when speaking, he did in his remarks Friday.
The Biden campaign also announced that an important surrogate, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, would proceed with an in-person, distanced rally in New Hampshire on Saturday. Biden’s wife, Jill Biden, campaigned Friday in New Hampshire and had several stops slated for Saturday in Minnesota.
Trump, for his part, has held large-scale rallies and has often played down the risks of a virus that has killed more than 208,000 people in the United States, while he and his campaign have mocked Biden over the precautions he has taken.
On Tuesday, the two candidates shared a debate stage in Cleveland, engaging with each other from roughly 12 feet apart but without masks. Over the course of 90 minutes, the president talked loudly and often, actions known to disperse the virus in tiny particles called aerosols. Some experts said Biden should quarantine for two weeks because of his proximity to Trump at the debate.
In addition to Biden, 77, others who have traveled with him recently, including his wife, were tested Friday. The campaign issued a statement from the Bidens’ doctor, Kevin O’Connor, saying that the coronavirus “was not detected” in the couple.
Still, it can take several days after exposure for the virus to be detected by a test. People often show symptoms around five days after exposure, but as late as 14 days. And false negative tests can occur, especially in the early days of infection.