US states were grappling with surges in coronavirus cases that threatened to overwhelm hospitals as Donald Trump and Joe Biden staged competing campaign rallies on Saturday with just 10 days to go until the presidential election.
Mr Trump’s intense schedule included three battleground states — North Carolina, Ohio and Wisconsin — on Saturday as he tries to catch up with his Democratic rival, who is leading in national polls by 8.7 percentage points, according to Financial Times analysis of Real Clear Politics data.
At his first rally in Lumberton North Carolina, Mr Trump insisted the US was “rounding the turn” on coronavirus, despite several states posting record one-day increases in new Covid-19 infections on Friday. These included the critical swing states of Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.
“We are doing great. Our numbers are incredible,” Mr Trump said at the rally on Saturday afternoon. Mr Trump blamed the media for focusing on the infection numbers, which he said were the result of widespread testing.
“That is all I hear about now . . . turn on television, Covid, Covid, Covid,” he said. “We show more cases because we test.”
“Americans are tired of all this negativity.”
The US reported 82,668 new Covid-19 cases on Saturday, down from a record one-day high of 83,010 on Friday, according to the Covid Tracking Project. Deaths also edged down to 885 from 916 on Friday.
Ohio, where Trump spoke Saturday evening, reported a record-high 2,858 new cases on Saturday, up from 2,518 on Friday. Illinois, the sixth most populous state, on Saturday reported 6,161 new confirmed cases and said 63 more people died from the virus. On Friday, Chicago restarted a curfew and ordered bars to close for indoor service.
More than 216,000 Americans have died from Covid-19 — a higher total than any other country.
Mr Biden, the Democratic challenger, on Saturday toured Pennsylvania, a swing state where Mr Trump beat Hillary Clinton four years ago by a razor-thin margin of some 44,000 votes.
“It’s go-time, folks. It’s game day,” Mr Biden told a drive-in rally in Bucks county, just north of Philadelphia. “We have 10 days left. And it may come down to Pennsylvania. The choice has never been clearer and the stakes have never been higher.”
The former vice-president, who has sought to make November’s election a referendum on Mr Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, tore into the president’s public health record.
“Yesterday, while he’s telling everything’s all right, we saw the highest number — 85,000 new cases in one day — since this pandemic began,” Mr Biden said. He has said that if he were president, he would mandate mask-wearing in federal buildings and in interstate travel, and encourage state governors and local officials to do the same in their jurisdictions.
Amid public health concerns about voting on election day, at least 56m Americans have already voted early, either by mail or in-person, according to the University of Florida’s US Elections Project.
Mr Trump, who changed his official residence from New York to Florida last year, voted early, in-person, on Saturday morning at a library in West Palm Beach.
The president told reporters that it was a “very secure vote” and everything was perfect”, adding: “I voted for a guy named Trump.”
Campaigning for his former vice-president in Miami, Florida, ex-president Barack Obama said that Mr Trump would be the first US president to actually lose jobs because of his “botching” of the pandemic response.
“He did inherit the longest streak of jobs growth in American history that we got started. But just like everything else he inherited, he fumbled it,’ Mr Obama said.
“The only people who are truly better off than they were four years ago are the billionaires who got Trump tax cuts.”
Mr Obama said his administration had left Mr Trump a “playbook” on how to respond to a pandemic.
“It must be lost along with the Republican healthcare plan,” he said.