A somber Sen. Bernie Sanders confronted growing worries over the novel coronavirus Thursday on a stage that gave him another opportunity to champion his prized healthcare expansion policy goal.
Speaking from a hotel meeting place in Burlington, Vermont, Sanders (I-VT) spoke for a little over 16 minutes, jumping from concerns about the impact of isolation as more people self-quarantine and the cost of healthcare, to plans for helping the less fortunate overcome the hardships the pandemic could cause.
"Nobody knows what the number of fatalities may end up being or the number of people who may get ill, and we all hope that that number will be as low as possible," Sanders said. "But we also have to face the truth. And that is that the number of casualties may actually be even higher than what the armed forces experienced in World War Two."
The Sanders campaign billed the event as focusing on “the health and economic crisis facing the country.” Both of Sanders presidential campaigns have focused heavily on his prized Medicare for All policy goal. The issues surrounding the coronavirus gave the senator another chance to pitch the policy he has tirelessly fought for, and he took the opportunity Thursday.
"Our country is at a severe disadvantage compared to every other major country on earth because we do not guarantee healthcare to all people as a right," Sanders said Thursday.
He added later: "The United States government today must make it clear that in the midst of this emergency every one in our country, regardless of income or where they live, must be able to get all of the healthcare they need without cost."
And when a vaccine or treatment is created, "it must be free of charge."
Former Vice President Joe Biden also gave a coronavirus targeted address Thursday as the two 2020 rivals try to make a stark contrast to the maligned approach President Donald Trump has taken to the health pandemic. After suffering a string of losses on Tuesday night, Sanders has committed to staying in the presidential race and debating Biden one on one during Sunday night’s latest Democratic debate.
The 78-year-old, who returned to the campaign trail last year after a heart attack, made a lengthy list of calls to action Thursday.
Among them, that emergency funding is needed for paid family and medical leave and economic assistance is needed for the elderly and emergency unemployment assistance is needed for other workers. A moratorium should also be placed on evictions, foreclosures, and utility shut offs, and emergency housing shelters must be built, he said.
There aren't enough doctors and nurses in the current healthcare system, Sanders said, and called on mobilizing "medical residents, retired medical professionals," among others to face the health crisis.
"And in this moment we need to make sure that in the future, after this crisis is behind us, we build a healthcare system that makes sure that every person in this country is guaranteed the healthcare that they need," Sanders said.