(Bloomberg) -- Democratic presidential candidates tore into President Donald Trump’s response to the coronavirus epidemic, saying in their debate Tuesday that a failure to take action has fed public fear and this week’s plunge in stock markets.
“The stock market’s falling apart because people are really worried -- and they should be,” former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said when asked about the coronavirus during the debate in Charleston, South Carolina. “We don’t have anybody to respond.”
Senator Amy Klobuchar, former Vice President Joe Biden and Bloomberg all said Trump has sought to cut funding to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Klobuchar said that the president “hasn’t really addressed the nation on this topic.”
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Biden, citing his experience handling the Ebola outbreak in the Obama administration, said he would increase funding for federal health agencies, attacking Trump for seeking to cut back.
“I was part of making sure that pandemic did not get to the United States, saved millions of lives,” Biden said of Ebola.
Senator Bernie Sanders ridiculed Trump as a “self-described great genius” who’s proclaimed that April is the “magical” time that the coronavirus will be wiped out.
Responding to Democratic criticism even as the debate unfolded and as he was returning from a visit to India, Trump tweeted that “CDC and my Administration are doing a GREAT job of handling Coronavirus” and that “No matter how well we do, however, Democrats talking point is that we are doing badly.”
Earlier in the day, Senator Elizabeth Warren, another of the Democratic candidates, said the stock market plunge is only the “tip of the iceberg” of a growing economic threat from coronavirus and from the Trump administration’s “bungling” response.
“Without swift action, supply chain disruptions and reduced purchases will have severe, long-term effects on our entire economy,” she wrote on Twitter. “The government should be helping American manufacturers find alternative sources for parts and production and helping American exporters find new purchasers.”
The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 879 points on Tuesday, after declining more than 1,000 points on Monday on rising concern that coronavirus could upend global supply chains critical to economic growth.
Market losses accelerated Tuesday after the CDC warned Americans to prepare for a coronavirus outbreak, despite assurances from Trump that the situation is “very well under control in our country.”
Top U.S. health officials said the outbreak is “rapidly evolving and expanding,” describing a range of measures the government could take if the virus spreads through the U.S., including school closings and cancellations of sporting events.
The World Health Organization reported Tuesday that the number of global infections exceeded 80,000, up 900 in a day, and that cases were reported in four additional countries -- Afghanistan, Bahrain, Iraq and Oman. There have only been 60 Americans infected so far, according to the CDC, and none have died.
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