“The Transportation Department stupidly, in my opinion, rejected a petition to require just that — wear a mask when you’re on public transportation,” he said during a virtual town hall with the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU).
“If I can say something here, this is not about freedom, it’s about patriotism. You wear a mask to protect the person next to you. You wear a mask to protect the bus driver. You wear a mask to protect the person you’re sitting next to on the bus. To reject the chance to the easiest possible thing to save lives, I find it appalling. I promise you that my Department of Transportation (DOT) will insist on it,” he added.
Biden appeared to be referring to a July request from unions that the DOT issue an emergency ruling that would deny bus, train, and airplane passengers entry if they refuse to wear one. According to The Washington Post, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao was resistant to the idea of writing new rules but stood by Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidance advising passengers to wear masks on public transportation.
He also blamed Trump for transportation workers not having enough personal protective equipment (PPE) to keep them safe.
“It’s unconscionable that for so long Washignton left our states, cities, and transit agencies to bid against one another. If that’s not the president’s responsbility, what the hell — what the heck is his responsibility?” he asked.
“‘Not my fault, I have no responsibility. Go to your mayor, your governor, your employer'” Biden said, apparently mocking the president. “It’s unconscionable — at seven months in, so many transit employees still aren’t provided enough PPE to keep you safe on the job.”
Biden went on to claim that Trump wasn’t just apathetic towards transportation workers, “he doesn’t, they don’t care about much of anybody.”
President Trump’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) also caught Biden’s scrutiny.
“You know, they started off promising to give school teachers and schoolchildren masks to go back to school, then FEMA said, ‘no, it’s not an essential requirement.’ Not essential — Mr. President, I’d use the full power of the Defense Production Act to get PPE out to every single transit worker, hospital, job site, and school in this country,” he added.
Biden’s comments came after President Trump tested positive for the coronavirus, prompting some to scrutinize his mask-wearing habits. The former vice president also echoed criticism Trump previously faced for not acting sooner to ensure states had needed resources.
The administration has defended its actions, pointing to how it utilized the Defense Production Act at the end of March. In May, White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany described Trump’s response as the “greatest mobilization of American industry since World War II.”
“The fact that, in the average year, the healthcare industry uses 25 million N95 masks, and we have delivered in this short time 75 million N95 masks — more than three times what the healthcare sector uses in a year — that’s extraordinary,” she said at the time.