Biden campaign instructs staff to telework; lays out plan on dealing with coronavirus

Biden has called for a rapid increase in the number of tests administered.

In a new memo circulated internally by the leadership of former Vice President Joe Biden’s campaign, all campaign employees in both the Philadelphia headquarters and field offices across the country are being instructed to work from home starting this Saturday, due to growing concerns over the spread of the coronavirus.

“Starting Saturday, March 14, all Biden for President employees both in our Philadelphia headquarters and in field offices across the country will work from home. Department heads will be in touch with teams about tele-work processes and operations,” according to a memo obtained by ABC News.

The memo said these policies will be in effect for the next two weeks, after which the campaign will reassess the situation. The changes were announced after consulting with the experts on their newly announced public health advisory committee--which they say they will continue to do throughout the two weeks.

All staff currently in states will be given the option of returning to their permanent residences, or will be provided housing paid for by the campaign in “Work from Home,” remote office pods across the country. Additionally, all Biden for President offices - including headquarters and field offices - will be closed to the public.

The memo also provided an update on plans for traveling and campaigning going forward, saying that so long as public guidance does not change, the campaign will continue to hold “smaller events,” though fundraisers would become virtual in nature indefinitely.

The move comes hours after former Vice President Joe Biden laid out the need Thursday to combat the growing threat of the coronavirus and excoriated the Trump administration for its "severe shortcomings," in handling the crisis.

"Unfortunately, this virus laid bare the severe shortcomings of the current administration. Public fears are being compounded by a pervasive lack of trust in this president. Fueled by adversarial relationships with the truth that he continues to have," Biden said in a speech Thursday in Wilmington, Delaware.

Biden called for a rapid increase in the number of tests administered in the coming days and called for a renewed focus on making tests available at senior centers and nursing homes, which house the populations most vulnerable to the disease.

The former vice president also called for an accelerated timeline on the development of a vaccine to treat the virus, as the number of cases across the country continue to increase by the day.

“We need to accelerate the development and treatment of the vaccine. Science takes time. And it will still be many months before we have a vaccine that can be proven safe for public use, and produced in sufficient quantities to make a difference. But therapeutics can and should come sooner. This will save lives,” Biden urged.

More than just the health and medical aspect of the pandemic, Biden placed a large focus on the economic impact of the disruption to daily life the outbreak will cause, calling for decisive action to help those who will struggle as a result.

“This crisis will hit everyone but it will hit folks who live paycheck to paycheck the hardest, including working people and seniors. Another tax cut to Google or Goldman or millionaires won't get the job done,” Biden said, taking aim at another one of Trump’s proposals to combat the crisis.

Biden’s plan for paid leave would create a federal fund “to cover 100% of weekly salaries or average weekly earnings capped at $1,400 a week—the weekly amount that corresponds with about $72,800 in annual earnings.”

The types of leave covered by the federal fund would include paid leave for sick workers, those caring for family members or other loved ones impacted by the virus, and workers unable to do their jobs due to an increased risk of health complications, as well as provide child care assistance for dealing with school closings.

Biden's speech follows a national address by President Trump on Wednesday night, where, in addition to the travel restrictions, he called for the Treasury Department to defer tax payments without interest or penalties for certain impacted individuals and businesses, called on Congress to provide “immediate” payroll tax relief, and said the government will make low interest loans available to small businesses.

“We are marshaling the full power of the federal government and the private sector to protect the American people,” Trump said in his address.

As a general election matchup with Trump appears increasingly likely, Biden offered his plan as “road map,” for the current administration, telling the president he is welcome to “adopt” his plan.

“I offer it as a road map, not for what I will do as president 10 months from now, but for the leadership that I believe is needed and required at this very moment. President Trump is welcome to adopt all of it today,” Biden said Thursday.

His proposal includes:" the wide availability of free testing, emergency paid leave for all those affected by the outbreak, mounting an effective national emergency response and rallying the world to confront this crisis"

“We will lead by science,” Biden said, adding that “downplaying” the threat of the coronavirus or “being overly dismissive or spreading misinformation is only going to hurt us and further advantage the spread of the disease.”

“Let me be crystal clear, the coronavirus does not have a political affiliation. It will affect Republicans, Independents and Democrats alike. And it will not discriminate based on national origin, race, gender, or zip code,” Biden said.

“Banning all travel from Europe or any other part of the world may slow it, but as we’ve seen, it will not stop it. And travel restrictions based on favoritism and politics rather than risk will be counterproductive,” the former vice president continued, taking aim at travel restrictions announced by the Trump administration Wednesday night.

While he conceded that no president can prevent future disease outbreaks, Biden, again leaning into a contrast with Trump, pledged that as president his administration will be “better prepared, respond better and recover better,” adding “I’ll always tell you the truth. This is the responsibility of a president.”

“No president can promise to prevent future outbreaks. But I can promise you this, when I'm President, you will be better prepared, respond better and recover better. We'll lead with science and listen to the experts, we'll heed their advice. And we’ll build American leadership and rebuild it to rally the world to meet our global threats that we’re...likely to face again. And I’ll always tell you the truth. This is a responsibility of a president. That's what is owed to the American people,” Biden said.

Amid the ongoing novel coronavirus threat and fears of the virus spreading in the U.S, Biden's campaign announced Wednesday it will be hosting “virtual events” in place of events on the ground in Illinois and Florida.

“The campaign’s top priority is and will continue to be the health and safety of the public," the campaign said earlier in a statement. "Members of the committee will provide ongoing counsel to the campaign, which will in turn continue to update the public regarding operational decisions.”