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Joe Biden responded Wednesday to reporting in Bob Woodward's new book that shows President Trump intentionally downplayed the threat of the coronavirus in February and March, accusing him of a "life-and-death betrayal of the American people."

Why it matters: It was one of Biden's harshest attacks yet on Trump's handling of the coronavirus pandemic, coming shortly after taped interviews with the president revealed him telling Woodward on March 19, "I wanted to always play it down. I still like playing it down, because I don't want to create a panic."

What he's saying:

"He knew how deadly it was. It was much more deadly than the flu. He knew and purposely played it down. Worse, he lied to the American people. He knowingly and willingly lied about the threat it posed to the country for months. He had the information. He knew how dangerous it was.
Now while this deadly disease ripped through our nation, he failed to do his job on purpose. It was a life-and-death betrayal of the American people. Experts say that if he had acted just one week sooner, 36,000 people would have been saved. If he acted two weeks sooner, back in March, 54,000 lives would have been spared in March and April alone.
You know, his failure has not only cost lives, it sent our economy in a tailspin. It cost millions more in American livelihoods. This is a recession created by Donald Trump's negligence, and he is unfit for this job as a consequence of it. ...
And how many families are missing loved ones at their dinner table tonight because of his failures? It's beyond despicable. It's a dereliction of duty. It's a disgrace."

Between the lines: An analysis from Columbia University in May, which was not peer-reviewed at the time, found that the U.S. could have prevented approximately 36,000 COVID-19 deaths if broad social distancing measures were enforced earlier in March.

  • The same study found that nearly 54,000 deaths could have been avoided if social distancing restrictions were enforced two weeks earlier.

Go deeper

Dec 17, 2020 - Health

CDC: Drug overdose deaths accelerated during pandemic

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

An estimated 81,000 people died from a drug overdose between June 2019 and May 2020, the highest number ever recorded in a 12-month period, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report released on Thursday.

Why it matters: The provisional data suggests the pandemic accelerated overdose deaths.

Dec 17, 2020 - Health

San Francisco to mandate 10-day quarantine for travelers from outside Bay Area

Photo: Justin Sullivan via Getty

San Francisco will enforce a travel quarantine effective Friday as California struggles to combat rising COVID-19 deaths and hospitalization rates.

Driving the news: Anyone “traveling, moving or returning to San Francisco from anywhere outside the Bay Area” will have to remain isolated for 10 days, Mayor London Breed announced on Thursday. The order will remain in place through at least Jan. 4.

Dec 18, 2020 - Health

Supreme Court denies religious school challenge to Kentucky's COVID-19 restrictions

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear (right). Photo: Jon Cherry via Getty

The Supreme Court on Thursday refused to block Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear’s executive order halting in-person instruction at most K-12 schools, including religious schools, through the end of the year, noting that the order "effectively expires this week or shortly thereafter."

Why it matters: The decision follows several cases that examined whether state coronavirus restrictions affecting religious institutions, including places of worship violate, the First Amendment.