CHICAGO (CBS Chicago/CBS News) — In their final debate on Thursday night, President Donald Trump and Democratic challenger former Vice President Joe Biden differed sharply on who and what is to blame for the state of the coronavirus pandemic in the U.S.
On our “Second Screen” presentation on CBSN Chicago Thursday night, two local panelists likewise disagreed when it comes to the pandemic in Illinois.
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As the debate began, moderator Kristen Welker of NBC News noted that as of Thursday, there were 40,000 Americans in the hospital, and there were record numbers of cases in Tennessee. The debate was held in Nashville.
Welker also noted that 16,000 Americans had died since the previous debate between President Trump and former Vice President Biden.
President Trump defended his response to the pandemic, though he did not directly outline how he planned to address the next wave of the crisis.
“We closed up the greatest economy in the world in order to fight this horrible disease that came from China. It’s a worldwide pandemic,” Mr. Trump said, arguing that the mortality rate has decreased. The federal government did not shut down the country’s economy, but states individually decided whether to impose restrictions.
“We are fighting it, and we’re fighting it hard,” Mr. Trump said. He added that a vaccine would likely be ready before the end of the year.
“We have a vaccine that’s coming, it’s ready, it’s going to be announced within weeks, and it’s going to be delivered,” Mr. Trump said. He later added that it’s “not a guarantee” that a vaccine would be ready in a few weeks, “but it will be by the end of the year.”
Biden slammed Mr. Trump’s response to the virus, saying that the president does not have a plan to address the crisis.
“Anyone who’s responsible for that many deaths should not remain as president of the United States of America,” Biden said. He held up his mask, and said that widespread mask-wearing could save 100,000 lives.
On the issue of shutting down businesses and other intervention to fight the virus, Biden said: “What I would say is I’m going to shut down the virus, not the country. It’s his ineptitude that caused the country to have to shut down in large part.”
But President Trump criticized the mitigation tactics and said it was Democratic governors who had mishandled the pandemic.
“His Democrat governors – Cuomo in New York; you look at what’s going on in California. You look at Pennsylvania, North Carolina – Democrats, Democrats all, they shut down so tight and they’re dying. They’re dying,” Mr. Trump said, “and (Biden) supports all these people.”
But political analyst Kimberley Egonmwan said Gov. JB Pritzker did the right thing in shutting down the state when the pandemic first began raging in the spring, and said the second surge in the fall that is now being observed was predicted.
“There is absolutely nothing here that’s happening that we did not already anticipate happening,” Egonmwan said. “It was right to shut everything down in the middle of a life-or-death situation.”
She added, “Had these state shut down, the numbers of people who would be dead right now would be even higher than 200,000,” and while anyone can get the virus, Egonmwan said it is “violently killing Black people, older people, and people with chronic illnesses.”
The demographics of larger cities, and not what party runs them, explain why larger cities have seen more deaths, Egonmwan said.
Del Mar countered, “If the Democrats had the answer and if the people were doing what they were supposed to be doing, you wouldn’t have seen a rise.”
He said he agreed that the stay-at-home order at the start of the coronavirus pandemic was the right decision, and he said it even should have been longer.
“I just don’t think you can say, ‘Hey, it’s the Republicans’ fault; it’s Donald Trump’s fault, and then you look at all these different cities, different states, and they’re Democrat-run,” Del Mar said.
On Thursday, the Illinois Department of Public Health reported 4,942 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, as well as 44 additional deaths. While the state reported 5,368 new cases of COVID-19 on Sept. 4, that total included cases from several previous days, after the state cleared a backlog of cases caused by a slowdown in the public reporting of results.
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The new Illinois cases announced Thursday account for 6.1% of the 80,977 new tests reported by IDPH. The statewide seven-day average positivity rate remains at 5.7%, the highest it’s been since June 5, when the rate was 6%.
In Chicago, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said the city is in the second surge of COVID-19, and announced that bars, breweries, and taverns without a food license will once again be forbidden from operating indoor service.
The mayor also announced a business curfew that will begin Friday and will go for two weeks “in the hopes of stemming the spread of this disease.”
All non-essential businesses will be closed to the public from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m., and all liquor sales will stop after 9 p.m. Essential businesses like grocery stores, pharmacies and restaurants with take-out delivery services are exempt. Lightfoot said she would not hesitate to roll the city back into Phase 3 or a stay-on-place if things get worse.
CBS News’ Grace Segers, Stefan Becket, and Melissa Quinn contributed to this report.