WILMINGTON, Del. (AP) - Joe Biden said Friday that he's been tested at least once for the COVID-19 virus and promised he will be tested regularly during his general election campaign against President Donald Trump.
The Democratic presidential nominee told reporters of his testing protocol during a wide-ranging news conference in which he blasted Trump for downplaying the coronavirus and thus ensuring that it will continue to kill Americans and ravage the economy.
For much of the summer, Biden's advisers deflected questions about whether the former vice president was being tested himself as he anchored his campaign almost exclusively from his Delaware home, traveling sparingly as a precaution.
"They're going to do it on a regular basis," Biden said of the testing.
He noted that the Secret Service agents assigned to protect him and "everyone" else who comes into his home is tested already. Biden said he didn't know specifically when his next test would be.
"I just, 'yes, sir,' show up and put my head back," Biden said. "I imagine it'll be sometime this week, but it will be a regular basis."
Biden and Trump offer voters a sharp contrast on the pandemic and its economic fallout.
In the Oval Office on Friday, Trump hailed a new jobs report and repeated his optimism that a COVID-19 vaccine could be available even before the Nov. 3 election.
Hours later, during a fundraiser, Biden said, "I hope like hell they have a vaccine," but questioned Trump's timeline and ability to distribute it. "We've got to make sure they're not just hyping that they actually finish all the testing," Biden said, adding that Trump's public questioning of scientists and medical experts will reduce confidence in a vaccine whenever it comes online.
"People don't trust a damn thing he says," Biden quipped.
Further, the former vice president questioned how well the administration is planning for distribution, given the White House's rocky distribution of COVID-19 tests and protective equipment. "Discovery of a safe vaccine isn't enough," Biden said. "The road from approval to injection is a long road."
Biden said Trump's statements about an impending vaccine and the August unemployment rate (it fell to 8.4% from 10.2% in July) still underplays the severity of coronavirus and its full effects on the economy, especially the working class.
"We can't deal with an economic crisis until you beat the pandemic," Biden said. "It's almost like he doesn't care, doesn't affect him, because it doesn't affect him or his class of friends."
The gulf between the two rivals extends even to masks.
Defying public health experts' guidance on social distancing, Trump has resumed regular campaign travel to events where his supporters crowd airplane hangars, most of them without masks. The president, who doesn't wear a mask regularly himself, has mocked Biden for covering his face as infectious disease experts advise.
"Did you ever see a man that likes a mask as much as him?" Trump asked a rally crowd Thursday night in Pennsylvania. He added: "You know what, it gives him a feeling of security. If I were a psychiatrist - right? I'd say, this guy's got some big issues."
Biden smiled widely Friday when asked about the president's remarks. "I'm a smart fella. I listen to scientists," Biden said, before turning serious. "This is not a game. Life and death. Life and death. It's hard to respond to something so idiotic."
Barrow reported from Atlanta.