Biden says 2020 convention may be 'virtual,' will wear mask amid COVID-19 outbreak

Former Vice President Joe Biden said Sunday on ABC's "This Week" that the recently delayed Democratic Convention will have to happen, but conceded that it may need to be held virtually if the novel coronavirus continues to pose a public health threat by mid-August.

"Well, we're going to have to do a convention. We may have to do a virtual convention. I think we should be thinking about that right now. The idea of holding the convention is going to be necessary. We may not be able to put 10, 20, 30,000 people in one place and that's very possible. Again let's see where it is -- and what we do between now and then is going to dictate a lot of that as well. But my point is that I think you just got to follow the science," Biden told ABC News' Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos.

The decision to delay the convention, originally scheduled for mid-July came after Biden publicly suggested the date be moved back to August as the coronavirus pandemic continues to keep the majority of the American public at home, and the likely Democratic nominee off the campaign trail.

Biden has remained at his Willmington, Delaware, home, following the guidance of a stay-at-home order put in place by the state's governor, and said Sunday morning that he would be heeding the advice of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention by wearing a mask the next time he goes out in public as a way to mitigate his risk of contracting COVID-19.

"Yes. Look, I think it's important to follow the science, listen to the experts do what they tell you," Biden said. "He may not like how he looks in a mask but the truth of the matter is that -- follow the science. That's what they're telling us. So if I go out in public, and I have not gone to commercial places of late I haven't gone to my local church ... but my generic point is that you should follow the science."

When pressed by Stephanopoulos if the Obama administration should have done more to heed a 2014 warning that a "devastating pandemic" was the highest homeland security risk, Biden pushed back, shifting the blame to the Trump administration for ending policies previously put in place by Obama, such as closing the White House Pandemic office.

"We did a whole lot of things, and they got a very detailed breakdown on this by a briefing that the Trump administration (got) when we transition out of office. But the president dismantled almost all of that, drastically cut budgets for the CDC," Biden said. "He didn't follow through on any of what we suggested was a real problem."

Biden's comments come as the likely Democratic nominee has struggled to compete with what he referred to on Friday as Trump's "bully pulpit" amid the coronavirus crisis.

Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden celebrates with his supporters after declaring victory at an election-night rally at the University of South Carolina Volleyball Center, on Feb. 29, 2020, in Columbia, South Carolina.

Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden celebrates with his supporters after declaring victory at an election-night rally at the University of South Carolina Volleyball Center, on Feb. 29, 2020, in Columbia, South Carolina.Scott Olson/Getty Images

The former vice president also slammed the decision to relieve Navy Capt. Brett Crozier, commander of the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt, after he raised concerns over an outbreak of COVID-19 on his ship. Biden had previously criticized Crozier's dismissal as sending a "chilling message" to the rest of the fleet.

"It's close to criminal the way they're dealing with this guy," Biden said Sunday. "The idea that this man stood up and said what had to be said, got it out that his troops, his Navy personnel were in danger. ... Look how many have the virus. I think ... he should have a commendation rather than be fired."

While Biden's campaign has charged that President Donald Trump's slow response to the coronavirus will cost lives, the former vice president again did not go as far when asked if Trump's inaction has led to more deaths -- saying the president was not responsible for the coronavirus, but is responsible the handling to the crisis.

Biden also said a suggested call between himself and Trump on the coronavirus response hasn't happened, but reiterated he was open to speaking with the president.

"Well, it hasn't happened. I'm happy to talk to him and I'd just tell him what we found is important to do … and that is to move swiftly and ... we have to move more rapidly," Biden said.

The former vice president and his campaign are adjusting to the new reality of the 2020 campaign by launching a variety of online efforts, including virtual town halls, fundraisers and even a podcast hosted by Biden.

Those events have brought varying degrees of success for a campaign that leans heavily on Biden's ability to connect one-one-one with voters at in-person events.

Biden also elaborated on a recent conversation he had with Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., his lone remaining rival for the Democratic presidential nomination, about his moving forward with the process of selecting a vice presidential running mate.

"I was apologizing to him by saying 'Bernie, I don't want in any way -- it's not in any way to demean your effort -- but if we don't start now we're not going to be able to get there', and he was very gracious, he said that he understood. It wasn't about asking him for recommendations of who he or I would pick," Biden said, noting that the intensive vetting process for a running mate needs to get underway now.

"If we don't start now or shortly in the month of April, it's gonna be hard to get it done. So I was basically apologizing and making it clear I wasn't trying to be presumptuous in any way...and (Sanders) said he appreciated that," Biden said.

Biden currently leads Sanders by more than 300 delegates -- a lead that is expected to grow larger as Wisconsin voters cast their ballots in the primary Tuesday, which has been clouded by legal challenges attempting to delay the vote over concerns for public safety.

Biden's interview comes ahead of his virtual town hall with his wife Dr. Jill Biden on Sunday night aimed at families.

The town hall, according to a campaign news release, seeks to provide "parents and children across the country with advice on how to stay connected, continue schoolwork, take care of each other, and spread joy and kindness during times of great uncertainty and anxiety."

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