Joe Biden coughed into his hand while delivering his opening statement at the CNN-hosted Democratic presidential debate in Washington, D.C. on Sunday.
The former vice president and Bernie Sanders squared off in the first one-on-one debate of the Democratic presidential campaign during a widening crisis over the coronavirus that has dramatically upended the daily life of Americans.
The two candidates greeted each other by touching elbows, an unusual start to a Democratic presidential debate.
Did Joe Biden just dry cough? ?
— Hirsty ☧?? (@realHirsty) March 16, 2020
“First of all my heart goes out to those who have already lost someone,” Biden said in response to moderator Jake Tapper’s question about the new reality for Americans amid a coronavirus pandemic.
Biden coughed midway through his opening line and continued to do so at later points during the debate.
Is anyone in the media or the CNN debate moderators going to ask Biden if he has been tested for the coronavirus?
He has repeatedly coughed tonight
The media hounded Trump for days until he got tested and released the results
Fair is fair, right? https://t.co/wFnoQeeLDu
— Ryan Saavedra (@RealSaavedra) March 16, 2020
According to the Center for Disease Control, cough is a symptom of COVID-19, the disease that causes the novel coronavirus.
The showdown between front-runner Biden and his last viable rival in Sanders was originally scheduled for Phoenix, but took place in a Washington, D.C., studio with no audience, a move made to limit possible exposure to the virus – a sign of how deeply the campaign routine has been reshaped by the global pandemic.
Biden recounted his experience as vice president in the Obama administration in dealing with the Ebola outbreak in 2014.
He laid out a plan to make testing free and widely available, establishing mobile sites and drive-through facilities in each state and provide more help for small businesses and others hurt by the resulting economic slowdown.
“This is like a war, and in a war you do whatever needs to be done to take care of your people,” Biden said.
(Reuters contributed to this report.)