Vice Presidential Debate: Harris and Pence Battle Over COVID-19

3 min read Senator Kamala Harris and U.S. Vice President Mike Pence debate each other ahead of the Presidential election in November.

Man voting

Photo Credit: (Arnaud Jaegers) This debate was an opportunity for the current administration and the rivaling candidates to explain their position on the coronavirus pandemic's future. 

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By Wesley Wallace | wwallace5@radford.edu

Democratic Vice Presidential candidate Kamala Harris faced off against Republican Vice President Mike Pence at the University of Utah for the Vice Presidential debate.

The debate, moderated by Susan Page, Washington Bureau Chief for USA Today, allowed both candidates to discuss the COVID-19 pandemic issues.

In response to whether the Biden-Harris administration would impose a federal mandate to wear masks or issue new lockdowns for hotspots, Sen. Harris said, “The American people have witnessed what is the greatest failure of any presidential administration in the history of our country.”

“And here are the facts. 210,000 people have died in our country in just the last seven months,” Sen. Harris said. “There are over seven million people who have contracted this disease. One in five businesses closed, and we’re looking at front-line workers who have been treated like sacrificial workers.”

Sen. Harris also took an opportunity to address when President Donald Trump and Vice President Pence were warned of the coronavirus’s lethality.

Sen. Harris also took an opportunity to address when President Donald Trump and Vice President Pence were warned of the coronavirus’s lethality.

“We are looking at over thirty million people who in the last several months had to file for unemployment. On Jan. 28, the Vice President and the President were informed about the nature of this pandemic. They were informed that it’s lethal in consequence, that it is airborne, that it will affect young people, and that it would be contracted because it is airborne.”

Sen. Harris finished her statement by saying, “Joe Biden has a plan, and our plan is to create a national strategy around contact-tracing, testing, and administering a vaccine that will be free for all Americans.”

The debaters were also prompted with why the coronavirus death toll is higher in the U.S. than almost every other wealthy country.

Coronavirus tests
Photo Credit: (Medakit Ltd) The debaters were also prompted with why the coronavirus death toll is higher in the U.S. than almost every other wealthy country.

Vice President Pence stated, “Our nation’s gone through a very challenging time this year. But I want the American people to know that from the very first day, President Donald Trump has put the health of America first.”

Vice President Pence continued by saying, “Before there were more than five cases in the United States, all people who had returned from China, President Donald Trump did what no other American president had ever done, and that was he suspended all travel from China, the second-largest economy in the world.

Vice President Pence then addressed Sen. Harris directly about his involvement with the Coronavirus Task Force and President Trump’s decisions in early March about restricted travel.

Vice President Pence said, “Now senator, Joe Biden opposed that decision. He said it was xenophobic and hysterical, but I can tell you, having led the White House Coronavirus Task Force, that this decision alone by President Trump bought us invaluable time to stand-up the greatest national mobilization since World War II.”

Vice President Pence defended the ban on travel made in early March and elaborated on how many lives were saved during this portion of the debate.

Vice President Pence defended the ban on travel made in early March and elaborated on how many lives were saved during this portion of the debate.

Vice President Pence said, “I believe it saved hundreds and thousands of American lives because with that time we were able to reinvent testing.” 

“More than 115 million tests have been done to date, we were able to see to the delivery of billions of supplies, so our doctors and nurses had the support they needed, and under President Trump’s leadership, we believe Operation WarpSpeed will literally have tens to millions of doses of a vaccine before the end of this year,” Vice President Pence said.

This debate was an opportunity for the current administration and the rivaling candidates to explain their position on the coronavirus pandemic’s future.