Vice President Mike Pence and Senator Kamala Harris of California immediately clashed when discussing the coronavirus pandemic during the vice presidential debate on Wednesday, with Harris criticizing the Trump administration's "ineptitude" and the vice president telling her to "stop playing politics with people's lives."
When Harris, former vice president Joe Biden's running mate, was asked by moderator Susan Page about how a Biden administration would handle the pandemic, she didn't pull any punches.
"The American people have witnessed what is the greatest failure of any presidential administration in the history of our country," Harris said. "And here are the facts...210,000 dead people in our country in just the last several months...1 in 5 businesses are closed. We're looking at frontline workers who have been treated like sacrificial workers."
Harris then accused the administration of trying to conceal the truth about the coronavirus.
"On January 28, the vice president and President Trump were informed that it was lethal in consequence...that it airborne...that it will affect young people," she said. "They knew what was happening and they did not tell you. They knew and they covered it up. The president said it was a hoax. In spite of all of that, they still don't have a plan."
She said that a Biden administration would offer contact tracing, testing, and a vaccine that would be free to American citizens.
She added: "Frankly, [the Trump] administration has forfeited their right to reelection based on this."
When asked why the country's death toll was higher than other countries, Pence said that Trump has always been committed to the safety of Americans and referenced Trump decision to limit travel to and from China early on in the pandemic.
"Our nation has gone through a very challenging time," Pence said. "Before there were more than five cases in the US, all people who had returned from China...President Trump did what no other American president has ever done, and he suspended all travel from China, the second largest economy in the world."
He added: "Joe Biden opposed that."
(Biden's campaign expressed support for the move in April.)
As the chair of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, Pence stated that he has worked in tandem with Trump to prevent additional deaths due to the pandemic and went back to the president's decision on China, insisting that the decision "bought us invaluable time to stand up the greatest national mobilization since World War II."
"With that time, we were able to reinvent testing and more than 115 million tests have been done to date," Pence added. "Under President Trump's leadership in Operation Warp Speed, we should have tens of millions of doses of a vaccine before the end of this year."
The United States has had the worst outbreak of any country in the world, with over 210,000 deaths and over 7.5 million positive cases.