Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders Share Coronavirus Plans During Democratic Debate

The candidates greeted each other with an elbow bump at the opening of Sunday's Democratic Debate.

The coronavirus was a topic heavily discussed by Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden during the latest Democratic debate Sunday night.

While the debate was originally set to take place in Phoenix, it was moved to Washington, D.C., due to the coronavirus outbreak. The debate also moved forward without an audience.

The candidates opted to skip shaking hands and instead greeted each other with an elbow bump. They then took their positions at podiums spaced six feet apart, which follows the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's guidelines.

During the debate, Biden and Sanders both called for an increase in testing for the rapidly spreading virus, as well as economic relief for Americans suffering as a result of the global pandemic.

"This is bigger than any one of us. This calls for a national rallying for one another," Biden said.

Sanders criticized President Donald Trump's handling of the crisis and urged the president to stop obstructing medical professionals by “blabbering with unfactual information that is confusing the American public."

Sanders added that if he were president he would make sure no one has to pay for coronavirus testing or treatment, while Biden said he also believes no one should have to pay because it's "a crisis."

Biden said that every state needs to have at least 10 drive-thru testing locations, while he also wants the Defense Department and the Federal Emergency Management Agency to make plans to set up additional hospital beds. 

The candidates both agreed that illegal immigrants should be tested without the fear of being deported. 

While they originally agreed on how to go about handling the virus, Biden and Sanders eventually clashed over whether Sanders’ signature health-care plan is the best way to respond to the coronavirus.

Biden argued that Sanders' Medicare for All plan is similar to the health-care plan implemented in Italy, which is currently quarantined due to the virus. "With all due respect to Medicare for All, you have a single-payer system in Italy," Biden said. "It doesn’t work there."

Sanders rebutted by noting that experts have said that the United States is unprepared because "we don’t have a system." He then explained that his single-payer health-care system would provide free treatment for those who test positive for COVID-19.

Meanwhile, Biden shared that he plans to cover treatment by authorizing government funds.

The debate concluded with Biden and Sanders making closing remarks on the pandemic.

Sanders said that we need to "move aggressively" to make test kits, ventilator, ICUs and medical professionals available to all Americans. He added that we need to move quickly regarding the coronavirus and the economic fallout, though it is also time to "rethink America."

The candidate concluded that we need to aspire to be "a great country where we care about each other rather than a nation of greed and corruption."

After sharing how many people have been impacted by "fear and concern" over the pandemic, Biden said, "this is about how we bring people together and make the kind of sacrifices we need to make to get this done." 

Biden said that we need to listen to scientists to lessen the virus, while we also need to focus on the economic impact of the pandemic. "We have to have the best scientists in the world telling us what can stay open and what needs to be closed," he said.

He concluded that the most important part of tackling the issue is to "get rid of Donald Trump."

Both candidates have addressed their thoughts on the pandemic in the past and have been critical about Trump's response.

"This administration has left us woefully unprepared for the exact crisis we now face," Biden previously said in a speech that he delivered from his hometown of Wilmington, Delaware.

"No president can promise to prevent future outbreaks, but I can promise you this, when I'm president we will be better prepared, respond better and recover better," Biden added during the speech. "We will lead with science, listen to the experts, will heed their advice. We'll build American leadership and rebuild it to rally the world to meet the global threats that we are likely to face again."

Sanders was similarly critical of Trump's response. "If there ever was a time in the modern history of our country when we were all in this together this is the moment," he said. Sanders said of Trump's White House, "We have an administration that is largely incompetent and whose incompetence and recklessness have threatened the lives of many, many people in this country."

Sanders has been outspoken about his belief that testing and a vaccine for the coronavirus should be free, while Biden has revealed a slate of policy proposals, including making all medically necessary testing for the virus free and easily accessible. Biden also has called for Congress to enact paid leave for all Americans, followed by a proposal to mobilize federal resources to ensure that at least 10 testing sites are available in each state and that they provide federal aid.