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Surging COVID-19 cases plague US election’s final countdown

Wisconsin and Iowa – both key battleground states – are among the states recording the biggest increases in coronavirus cases.

At a rally in The Villages – a giant retirement community in Florida – on Saturday (ADST) Trump continued to minimise the seriousness of the pandemic, saying: “The Democrats talk about COVID, COVID, COVID. On November 4, when we win, you won’t hear about COVID anymore.”

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He struck a similar tone at the previous night’s final presidential debate when he said: “I don’t think we’re going to have a dark winter at all. It will go away, and as I say, we are rounding the turn, we’re rounding the corner, it is going away.”

In a speech in Delaware, Democratic nominee Joe Biden said: “COVID-19 dwarfs anything we’ve faced in recent history, and it isn’t showing any signs of slowing down. The virus is surging in almost every state. We have passed 8.4 million cases.”

Biden continued: “We are more than eight months into the crisis and the President still doesn’t have a plan. He’s given up. He quit on you, on your family, on America. He just wants us to grow numb and resigned to the horrors of the death toll and the pain.”

Polls consistently show that Americans believe Biden would do a better job handling the coronavirus, while Trump retains an advantage on handling the economy.

Modellers at University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation announced on Saturday (AEST) that they expect over 500,000 Americans will have died after contracting COVID-19 by the end of February.

“We are heading into a very substantial fall-winter surge,” Christopher Murray, the institute’s director, said.

Following the debate in Nashville, Tennessee, Biden was forced to clarify comments that he supported a transition away from the oil industry.

“We’re not getting rid of fossil fuels,” Biden told reporters. “We’re getting rid of the subsidies for fossil fuels, but we’re not getting rid of fossil fuels for a long time.”

Trump leapt upon Biden’s comments during the debate, saying: “Basically what he is saying is he is going to destroy the oil industry. Will you remember that, Texas? Will you remember that, Pennsylvania, Oklahoma?”

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Some Democrats running in oil-producing regions distanced themselves from Biden’s remarks.

“I disagree with VP Biden’s statement tonight,” Xochitl Torres Small, a Democratic congresswoman from New Mexico, said on Twitter.

“Energy is part of the backbone of New Mexico’s economy. We need to work together to promote responsible energy production and stop climate change, not demonise a single industry.”

Trump Biden 2020

Our weekly newsletter delivers expert analysis of the race to the White House from our US correspondent Matthew Knott. Sign up for the Herald‘s newsletter here, The Age‘s here, Brisbane Timeshere and WAtoday‘s here

Matthew Knott is North America correspondent for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.

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