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Joe Biden speaks with reporters as he arrives at Duluth International Airport in Minnesota. Photo: Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

Traveling with Joe Biden's press corps shows how the campaign juggles an intense focus on protecting his health, with an imperative to keep the coronavirus at the top of voters' minds.

Driving the news: I got to see this firsthand on Friday, when it was Axios' turn to serve as the print pooler for his trip to Minnesota. The timing meant I also happened to be in the bubble when Biden learned of and reacted to the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

In the air: The Gulfstream IV that flew Biden to Duluth, Minnesota, had an air cabin refresh rate of three minutes.

  • There were only 11 passengers in the main cabin, with a total capacity of 16.
  • On board, everyone was required to wear an N95 mask.
  • All staff and security in close proximity to Biden are tested regularly.

The press: Instead of dozens of reporters crowded in the back of a candidate’s plane, the rotating press pool, which shares its reporting with other news organizations, traveled in a separate plane.

  • For the 2½-hour flight to Duluth, 12 of us were spread out in a 36-seat Embraer 135, giving everyone their own row.
  • Reporters took temperature tests before boarding a press bus in the morning.

On the ground: Tape marked up the shop floor, letting press, carpenters and the candidate know where they could go. “I want to stand on my x,” Biden said at one point.

  • The shop was cleaned by multiple crews, with at least two sanitizing sessions.
  • Chairs for reporters were encircled by plastic rings, twice the size of hula hoops.
  • But there wasn't much social distancing during a tarmac gaggle, with reporters elbow-to-elbow together, straining to hear Biden through his mask over the jet engines.

Why it matters: Biden has staked his campaign on how he would have handled COVID-19 differently than President Trump, and he makes a point of strictly adhering to CDC safety protocols and individual state guidelines.

  • The mask is more than cosmetic for Biden: When his cloth mask kept slipping down his nose, he excused himself and changed to a surgical one.

Between the lines: A critique of Biden's social distancing on the campaign trail has been that it minimizes his interactions with the press corps.

  • For Biden’s statement on RBG, advance staff asked the press to back up more than usual, so that he could speak with his mask off.

Go deeper

Dec 17, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Incoming White House senior adviser Cedric Richmond tests positive for COVID-19

Rep. Cedric Richmond during a House Judiciary Committee meeting in December 2019. Photo: Pool/Getty Images

Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-La.), the incoming White House senior adviser for President-elect Joe Biden, has tested positive for COVID-19 and will self-quarantine for 14 days, the Biden-Harris transition team announced in a statement on Thursday.

What they're saying: "Richmond was not in close contact, as defined by the CDC, with the President-elect. President-elect Biden underwent PCR testing for COVID-19 today and COVID-19 was not detected," per a statement from transition spokesperson Kate Bedingfield. Biden tested negative for the coronavirus on Thursday.

Obama says Powell exemplified what America "can and should be"

Then-President Obama speaks alongside former Secretary of State Colin Powell (left) during a meeting in the Oval Office in 2010. Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

Former President Obama called Colin Powell an "exemplary soldier and an exemplary patriot" in a statement honoring the former general following his death from COVID complications on Monday.

Why it matters: Powell, the first Black U.S. secretary of state, was known as a Republican but played a critical role in helping Obama get elected in 2008.

Justice Department asks Supreme Court to block Texas abortion ban

Abortion rights activists rally at the Texas State Capitol on Sept. 11 in Austin, Texas. Photo: Jordan Vonderhaar/Getty Images

The Justice Department on Monday asked the Supreme Court to temporarily block Texas' near-total ban on abortions while federal courts consider its constitutionality.

The big picture: The court last month allowed the ban to take effect, rejecting an emergency application by abortion-rights groups. The law bars the procedure after cardiac activity is detected, as early as six weeks into pregnancy.