Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden speaks in Wilmington, Del., Wednesday, Sept. 2, 2020, about school reopenings. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden speaks in Wilmington, Del., Wednesday, Sept. 2, 2020, about school reopenings. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

“This year we’re facing some of the most difficult circumstances and we’re seeing an awful lot of heart and grit from our educators and our students to try to rise to the occasion here. But our government hasn’t risen up to that bar.”

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden criticized President Donald Trump for failing to execute any national plan to fight the coronavirus pandemic and leaving schools throughout the country without additional funding to reopen safely.

“This year we’re facing some of the most difficult circumstances and we’re seeing an awful lot of heart and grit from our educators and our students to try to rise to the occasion here. But our government hasn’t risen up to that bar,” Biden said from his home state of Delaware. “Let me be clear, if President Trump and his administration had done their jobs early on in this crisis, American schools would be open and they’d be open safely.”

Biden and his wife, Dr. Jill Biden, met with health experts and school officials to discuss what measures schools will need to take to reopen safely. Biden said public schools in the United States need a massive influx of funding to safely operate this year as they continue to deal with the coronavirus pandemic. 

“Donald Trump and Secretary DeVos haven’t stepped up and we’re all seeing the results. Millions of students are now starting the new school year in the same way they finished the last one, at home,” Biden said.

Earlier this week, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) announced that the agency will stop federal funding for cloth face masks in schools. Officials at FEMA argued that because masks have been deemed necessary for the basic operation of schools, they should not fall under the category of emergency equipment. The announcement comes as hundreds of teachers report scrambling to access suitable personal protective equipment and cleaning materials to protect themselves and their students returning to school. 

“What we should be doing is we should be providing more help for people who are trying to juggle the choice between [staying home or working for a salary,]” Biden said in his remarks. 

Before the start of the academic year for many districts in late August and early September, Trump repeatedly called for schools to reopen despite the health risks associated with welcoming students back without a plan.

Many schools that have already opened in-person are seeing an increasing number of COVID-19 cases in students and school staff. For instance, 450 students and staff had to be quarantined within the Central Florida public school system, according to the Orlando Sentinel. 

Biden said the White House needs to provide more detailed guidance for daycare centers, childcare, and schools to reopen facilities safely. And he said schools should have access to sufficient personal protective equipment and other necessary materials to keep students and staff safe before considering sending pupils back for in-person instruction. 

“How is it not political to not be willing to help provide protective equipment for people so that they can go back to work or to school?” Biden asked. “I just can’t fathom.” 

Biden closed out his remarks by explaining that if he is elected president, he would not shutdown the country again. He encouraged Americans to wear a mask in public. 

“Why do you wear a mask? To protect your neighbor. To keep someone else from getting sick and maybe dying. I call that patriotic,” he said.