Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders speaks in Burlington, Vermont, about the federal response to the coronavirus outbreak and the steps needed to combat the disease. Sanders slammed the "incompetence and recklessness" of President Donald Trump's response but called for unity and said the president to declare a national emergency to confront the virus.
"We have a major, major crisis and we must act accordingly. Therefore, it is a absolute moral imperative that our response as a government, as a society, as a business community and as individual citizens meet the enormity of this crisis," Sanders said Thursday.
"If there ever was a time in the modern history of our country, when we are in this together, this is that moment," he added.
"The American people deserve transparency, something this administration has fought day after day," Sanders said. "Unfortunately, in this time of international crisis, it is clear to me at least that we have an administration that is largely incompetent."
BERNIE SANDERS: The crisis we face from the coronavirus is on a scale of a major war and we must act accordingly. 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. 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 II. In other words, we have a major, major crisis and we must act accordingly.
Therefore, it is an absolute moral imperative that our response as a government, as a society, as a business community, and as individual citizens meet the enormity of this crisis. As people stay or work from home and are directed to quarantine, it will be easy for us to feel like we are all alone. “I’m working at home. I’m not at my office.” Or that we must only worry about ourselves and think that everybody else should fend for themselves. But in my view, that would be a tragic and dangerous mistake.
If that ever was a time in the modern history of our country when we are all in this together, this is that moment. Now is the time for solidarity. Now is the time to come together with love and compassion for all, including the most vulnerable people in our society who will face this pandemic from a health perspective or face it from an economic perspective. If our neighbor or coworker get sick, we have the potential to become sick. If our neighbor loses his or her job, then our local community suffers and we may lose our jobs. We are in this together. If doctors and nurses and medical personnel do not have the equipment and the training and the capacity they need right now, people we know may unnecessarily face additional illness and even death. We are all in this together.
Unfortunately, in this time of international crisis, it is clear to me, at least, that we have an administration that is largely incompetent, and whose incompetence and recklessness have threatened the lives of many, many people in our country. So today, I would like to give a brief overview of what, in my view, we must do to respond to this crisis.
First and foremost, we are dealing with a national emergency and the President of the United States must understand that and declare that emergency. Next, because President Trump is unwilling and unable to lead selflessly, we must immediately convene an emergency bipartisan authority of experts to support and direct a response that is comprehensive, compassionate, and based first and foremost, on science and facts. In other words, Congress in a bipartisan manner must take responsibility for addressing this unparalleled crisis.
Further, we must aggressively make certain that the public sector and the private sector are strongly cooperating with each other, and we need national and state hotlines staffed with well-trained people who have the best information available. One of the aspects of the current crisis is there are people who are asking themselves, “What all the symptoms of coronavirus? Well, I have a cold. Do I have the flu? Do I have the coronavirus? Who’s going to help me? Where do I go to seek medical treatment? How do I get a test? When is that test going to be processed?” People have a lot of questions, and at the statewide and federal level, we need experts to provide the necessary information to our people.
The American people deserve transparency. Something that the current administration has fought day after day to stifle. In other words, we need to know what is happening right now in our country, in our states, and in fact, all over the world. If there was ever a time for transparency and honesty and being straightforward, this is that moment. And we need that information coming from credible, respected scientific voices of which we have many in our own country and all over this world, not from politicians.
And during a crisis, we must make sure that we care for the communities most vulnerable to the health and economic pain that is coming, those in nursing homes and rehabilitation facilities. Those confined immigration detention centers, those who are currently incarcerated and in jails, and all people regardless of their immigration status.
Unfortunately, as I think the American people increasingly understand, 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. And as we speak, some 87 million Americans are either uninsured or underinsured. And when you are uninsured or underinsured, you hesitate about getting the medical care you need because you cannot afford to get that medical care. The result is that millions of our people cannot afford to go to a doctor, let alone pay for coronavirus tests.
So while we work to pass a Medicare for all single-payer system, 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. Obviously, when a vaccine or other effective treatment is developed, it must be free of charge. We cannot live in a nation where if you have the money, you get the treatment you need to survive. But if you’re working class or poor, you get to the end of the line. That would be morally unacceptable.