In Wisconsin town hall, Biden calls for increased coronavirus testing

In Wisconsin town hall, Biden calls for increased coronavirus testing


Joe Biden made his first virtual Wisconsin appearance Wednesday, calling for more accessible health care and increased testing and contact tracing to combat coronavirus. 

Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee for president, appeared in the livestream alongside U.S. Rep. Ron Kind and several leaders from rural areas of the state, including the CEO of a community health center, a farmers’ union representative and the economic development director of Trempealeau County. 

Biden so far has been endorsed in Wisconsin by Kind, D-La Crosse, as well as U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett and others. 

Wednesday’s discussion, streamed on YouTube, touched on issues impacting rural communities across Wisconsin, as well as the coronavirus pandemic and how to best reopen the nation’s economy. 

More than 500 people joined the roundtable despite the fact that the event started more than 20 minutes late. That late start fed a narrative by Trump Victory Wisconsin organizers, who during a morning media call made light of repeated problems the Biden campaign has had with his virtual events. 

Like President Donald Trump, the Biden campaign has suspended in-person campaign events such as rallies and round table discussions. Biden’s Wednesday event was focused on La Crosse voters, but — being online — anyone could tune in.

Wisconsin is a key state in the 2020 presidential election, as one of the three states — along with Michigan and Pennsylvania — that narrowly flipped to Republican, giving Trump the 2016 election. 

One of the bigger issues Biden highlighted was the need for the Affordable Care Act to stay in place, with millions of Americans facing an ongoing threat from coronavirus. As the Trump administration works to dismantle the Obamacare health insurance program, people are losing insurance tied to their employment, he said. 

Biden said government should support programs that sustain basic needs — such as health care and keeping businesses open — so the country can rebuild after the pandemic. 

The federal government should purchase more agricultural products — such as milk and produce — and give them to nonprofits that are helping to provide food to those in need, Biden said. The U.S. Department of Agriculture already has such a program, but Biden’s proposal would also include restaurants, which could prepare the food. 

“It’s time that farmers get a fair share,” he said. 

More on the dairy crisis: Dairyland in Distress

Biden also said it’s time the federal government realized farmers aren’t looking for handouts but for opportunities to keep their businesses running. 

He also highlighted the need for more access to high-speed Internet in rural areas, not just for farmers, but for other businesses and so health care providers can more easily reach patients. 

Trump slammed for slow action

Biden slammed Trump for failing to listen to intelligence on the threat posed by COVID-19 and for failing to provide stable leadership as thousands of Americans died. He said that the administration has cared more about the survival of big businesses than the survival of “Main Street” businesses in rural areas all over the country.

Some of the small business loans provided by the federal government have not gone to those the money was supposed to help, Biden said, because of a lack of oversight. 

“Wall Street didn’t build America, ordinary middle-class people built the country,” he said. “We need to make sure these funds are spent fairly and transparently.” 

Biden promised to help rural Americans with comprehensive programs. 

“There are so many things we can do to build up rural America,” Biden said. “There’s a lot out there that we can do, that’s not being done.” 

Earlier in the day, during a conference call held by the Wisconsin arm of Trump’s campaign, former Gov. Scott Walker and Republican Party of Wisconsin Chairman Andrew Hitt slammed Biden and other elected Democrats.

Hitt said that the state will never go for the policies that Biden has championed. He cited the outcome of last week’s 7th Congressional special election, which saw Republican Tom Tiffany defeat Democrat Tricia Zunker. 

“Wisconsinites, they’re not going to respond well to that,” Hitt said of Biden’s positions. “Good luck to Joe Biden to win over the 7th and 3rd Congressional Districts.” 

Hitt and Walker called on Kind to press for answers from Biden on the allegations by Tara Reade, who has claimed that the former vice president sexually assaulted her in 1993, while she was working in his Senate office.

Kind and Biden did not mention the matter during the roundtable event. Biden has strongly denied the allegations. 

Milwaukee-focused rally

Biden also held a Wednesday afternoon rally focused on Milwaukee-area voters, where he also criticized Trump’s handling of the coronavirus crisis.

Just like a conventional political rally, there was a late start, and a playlist to entertain listeners beforehand. After a short introduction video, speeches began from a host of Wisconsin leaders: Barrett and Baldwin, plus, U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore, Milwaukee business owner Cynthia Henry and Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes.

The presidential hopeful touched on many of the same topics during the afternoon rally — criticizing Trump and highlighting the need to support the middle class, as well as promising to fight for Wisconsin voters. 

The rally lasted about 30 minutes, during which each of the speakers asked voters to consider the importance of electing Biden over Trump. 

“We have a job to do Wisconsin,” said Baldwin, sitting in front of a white wall with the Biden 2020 logo taped up behind her. “We know that the road to the White House runs right through our state. And we know what we have to do.” 

Laura Schulte can be reached at [email protected] and on Twitter: @SchulteLaura.



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