WILMINGTON, DELAWARE - As the United States saw its highest number of new coronavirus cases reported in a single day, former Vice President Joe Biden announced that if he defeats President Donald Trump in next month's election, he will push for a nationwide mask mandate.
"I'll go to every governor and urge them to mandate masks in their state. And if any refuse, I'll go to the mayors and county executives to get local masking requirements in place nationwide," Biden said in a speech in Wilmington, Delaware, 11 days before the vote.
"As president, I'll mandate mask-wearing in all federal buildings and on interstate transportation because masks save lives," he said.
More than 80,000 new COVID-19 infections were reported Friday by Johns Hopkins University, topping the single-day record of 77,362 set July 16.
All but about a half dozen of the 50 U.S. states have shown increased coronavirus cases this week compared to last week. At least 14 states have reported new highs in hospitalized coronavirus patients in the past seven days.
Trump criticized Biden on Friday in Florida for emphasizing the infection, for which there is yet no vaccine or cure.
"All he talks about is COVID COVID, COVID because they want to scare people, and we've done so well with it," Trump said in the senior citizens' community of The Villages.
"We're rounding the turn. We're rounding the corner. We're rounding the corner beautifully," he said.
Later, at a second campaign rally in Pensacola, he told a packed crowd of thousands, where few were wearing masks, "we want normal to fully resume and that's happening."
Trump's critics have accused him of holding "super-spreader events," in defiance of federal health guidelines and local regulations on social distancing.
Biden, laying out his pandemic response plan Friday, criticized Trump for asserting during their nationally televised debate Thursday night that the country is learning to live with the coronavirus.
"As I told him last night, we're not learning to live with it," Biden said.
"We're learning to die with it, and there is a dark winter ahead," he said.
There are predictions from public health officials of a coronavirus case surge as cold weather sets in across the Northern Hemisphere.
Biden said Friday that "once we have a safe and effective vaccine, it has to be free to everyone -- whether or not you're insured."
Trump continues to defend his administration's handling of the pandemic amid criticism he has sidelined top career government infectious diseases experts on his coronavirus task force, in favor of outsiders such as Dr. Scott Atlas, a neuro-radiologist who has minimized the importance of masks.
Atlas has also reportedly promoted the argument that lockdowns and prohibitions on gatherings and indoor activities do more damage than good and lead to increases in poverty and mental problems.
COVID-19 has killed more than 223,000 people in the United States and infected nearly 8.5 million.
Trump on Friday, without giving specifics, vowed "we will eradicate the pandemic and defeat this scourge from China once and for all."