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How Trump's Coronavirus Infection Is Changing The Biden Campaign


Another coronavirus test today for Joe Biden. He stood about 15 feet from President Trump during the presidential debate on Tuesday during a window when the president may have been contagious. Biden took two tests Friday, and the results were negative. In the meantime, he's continuing to campaign and continuing to urge people to wear masks. NPR political correspondent Scott Detrow covers the Biden campaign, and he joins us now.

Hi, there.


GARCIA-NAVARRO: All right. Let's start with this. How at risk is Biden?

DETROW: Millions of people saw it on TV. He stood there on that debate stage for an hour and a half. And the president spoke a lot, often very loudly, during the debate. And as you...


DETROW: ...Were just talking about, we know yelling spreads virus particles more than breathing and speaking at a regular volume. So there are just a lot of questions about the timeline of the president's illness. We don't know for sure when he was contagious. Biden's campaign insists they were not in close contact, which they are defining as a 6 feet. But again, the virus can take several days, up to two weeks, to show itself in an exposed person.

So testing, again, in the coming days, could be key. This would be Day 5 for Biden. Biden told reporters he is taking another test today. And the campaign has made a change. They now say they will release the results of every single coronavirus test that Biden takes. That is a change from before when they were always kind of murky about how often he was being tested.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: But Biden, despite all this, is continuing to campaign.

DETROW: Yeah, he was in Michigan Friday. He's set to go to Arizona later this week. And he's keeping up his activity. He went to Mass last evening where other people were around. And he's getting criticism for that, which is kind of ironic, given how he was criticized for being careful and not leaving the house for months. The campaign argues its events are tightly controlled and spaced out.

One big difference that was interesting Friday - usually, Biden takes his mask off when he speaks, but he kept it on. And Jill Biden, who was sitting in the debate hall near the Trump family, did the same thing when she spoke on Friday.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: What about the substance of his campaign events? I mean, there's a lot of dynamics for Biden to weigh right now, now that his opponent is hospitalized. I mean...


GARCIA-NAVARRO: ...It's sensitive.

DETROW: Definitely. One notable change is the Biden campaign has pulled its negative advertising from TV for now. They won't say how long that will be in place for. Biden has always talked a lot about the coronavirus, but he's making a point to do that even more. Yesterday, for instance, he held a town hall with the Amalgamated Transit Union. And right at the top, he once again called for a national mask mandate. He says that would really help protect transit workers, among other people.


JOE BIDEN: This is not something that is taking away someone's freedom. It's a patriotic duty to wear a mask. You do it not just to protect yourself, but to protect one another. It's essential.

DETROW: One thing Biden is not doing is directly saying President Trump and his circle were taking enormous risks and that's why they were infected. And I just want to note the deep irony here. Biden has been so careful. And then he happens to be standing close to the president without a mask for an hour and a half during the exact window where his rival for the White House may have been contagious.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Yeah. Let's end on a much more typical question. Where does the race stand right now for Biden?

DETROW: Yeah. There's increasing evidence that the debate helped boost Biden's lead - several polls from swing states showing it expanded, a dramatic new national poll out just a few minutes ago from NBC News showing President Trump under 40%.


DETROW: He's at the level that Herbert Hoover was in 1932, to put that in context.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That's NPR political correspondent Scott Detrow with the latest.

Thank you.

DETROW: Sure thing. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Scott Detrow is a White House correspondent for NPR and co-hosts the NPR Politics Podcast.