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Biden Calls for Masks, Science After Trump Covid Diagnosis

Democrat Joe Biden called President Donald Trump’s diagnosis of Covid-19 a “bracing reminder” that Americans need to take the virus seriously, using the news to strengthen his calls for protective measures like masks and social distancing.

And in a sign of how Trump’s diagnosis has changed the contours of the presidential campaign, a campaign official said that the Biden team decided Friday to pull all “negative” ads — ads that criticize Trump — and only run “positive” ads, which focus on what Biden would do as president.

Biden, speaking outdoors through a surgical mask at an event with United Food and Commercial Workers International union members in Michigan, acknowledged the illness that struck Trump and his wife, Melania, and said he was “sending my prayers.”

He then reiterated his calls to follow scientists’ advice, and said he canceled a voter mobilization event in Michigan Friday that was to be indoors, because doctors recommended against it given the expected crowd size.

“We need to take the science of fighting this disease seriously if we’re going to save lives and above all the news is a reminder that we, as a nation, need to do better in dealing with this pandemic,” Biden said.

“We can save 100,000 lives in the next 100 days if everyone wears a mask in public. So be patriotic. It’s not about being a tough guy, it’s about doing your part,” he said.

Biden’s departure for Michigan had been delayed while the campaign awaited his latest test. Biden said he took two Covid-19 detection tests on Friday and both came back negative.

“Vice President Joe Biden and Dr. Jill Biden underwent PCR testing for Covid-19 today and Covid-19 was not detected,” Dr. Kevin O’Connor, the Bidens’ physician, said in a statement released by the campaign.

News of Trump’s coronavirus diagnosis shook the Biden campaign as his staff rushed to ensure safety while mapping out the coming weeks.

Biden has maintained a persistent lead of about 7 points in national polling and remains ahead in key battleground states. It’s not yet clear how Trump’s illness will affect the campaign but Trump has canceled all public events events for him and his family temporarily.

A top Biden aide expressed anger and frustration about the Trump campaign’s refusal to adhere to public health guidance about wearing masks and social distancing at the debate in Cleveland on Tuesday.

And Friday’s negative result does not guarantee Biden is clear. It can take days to develop enough of the coronavirus for a test to detect it.

“If he tests negative by let’s say Sunday or Monday morning, I would feel confident he’s mostly safe,” said Howard Forman, professor of public health at Yale University.

Linsey Marr, an engineering professor and airborne virus transmission expert at Virginia Tech, says there’s “definitely” a chance Biden was exposed to the coronavirus. The small droplets people produce when they talk behave more like cigarette smoke, meaning they can float in the air for minutes or hours, traveling farther than six feet.

A Biden campaign official said the candidate was taking necessary precautions. The official said that Biden was not in close contact with Trump and noted that he wore a mask at all times he was at the debate, except when he was on stage.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the Biden campaign enforces requirements for social distancing and mask wearing at all events.

Vice presidential nominee Senator Kamala Harris tested negative Friday and was en route to planned events in Las Vegas, Nevada. She did not attend the presidential debate and hasn’t been around Trump or his staff.

Jen O’Malley Dillon, Biden’s campaign manager, sent an all-staff email early Friday, possibly to prevent any gloating about the opponent, telling staff to “refrain from posting about the situation on social media unless otherwise directed by your manager.”

— With assistance by Angelica LaVito

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