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Biden: Wolf did 'one hell of a job' during COVID-19 pandemic

Logan Hullinger
York Dispatch

Former Vice President Joe Biden and Gov. Tom Wolf traded compliments Wednesday morning while discussing what the country needs to overcome the coronavirus pandemic.

Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee and a Scranton native, spoke with the governor just hours after Wolf formally endorsed the Democrat's bid to oust President Donald Trump.

"Tom, you've done one hell of a job," Biden said of the Democratic governor.

More:Coronavirus pandemic: Here's what York County's data looks like

More:York County has 13 new COVID-19 cases, cases statewide approach 70K

Both Wolf and Biden argued the country's recovery from the pandemic is contingent on Trump's defeat in November. A new administration is required to adequately prepare for future pandemics, they said.

But the governor himself acknowledged the state's response, which Republicans have blasted for hurting businesses, hasn't been easy.

"We really are in uncharted waters," Wolf said. "We're struggling to do things that we have never been taught to do."

Democratic presidential candidate, former Vice President Joe Biden and Jill Biden depart after placing a wreath at the Delaware Memorial Bridge Veterans Memorial Park, Monday, May 25, 2020, in New Castle, Del. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

Biden, however, praised Wolf's phased reopening plan. The red, yellow, green phase approach should be adopted nationally, he said.

Both politicians noted the need for additional stimulus aid from the federal government.

The Senate is in the midst of talks regarding a fifth wave of aid, though a partisan chasm over how much aid should be released has stalled legislation.

House Democrats, for example, pushed through legislation that would provide nearly $1 trillion in relief for state and local governments and provide further direct payments to U.S. citizens.

Senate Republicans, though, have made it clear that the legislation won't see the light of day, instead insisting the country should put a pause on additional aid to curb spending.

"This isn’t a math exercise. This is about people," Biden said, criticizing Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.

And while members of Congress debate dollar amounts and where aid should go, data shows Pennsylvania is undeniably hurting.

Nearly 2 million Pennsylvanians have applied for unemployment benefits since the outbreak began. And some businesses have defied Wolf's stay-at-home orders, desperate for revenue.

Mayors in the state, including York City Mayor Michael Helfrich, have also called on Congress to give local governments at least $250 billion in aid as tax revenues tank.

Gov. Tom Wolf ordered all but “life-sustaining” businesses to close in March to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Biden promised Wolf that he'd "have his back" if elected, but Republicans at the state and federal level interrupted the pleasantries of Wednesday's round table with a wave of criticism.

"It’s truly hard to tell which plan is worse for Pennsylvanians; Gov. Wolf’s disastrous ‘one size fits all’ strategy for reopening Pennsylvania that faces bipartisan opposition, or Joe Biden’s anti-energy agenda that would wreak havoc on Pennsylvania’s economy," said Melissa Reed, spokesperson for the Republican National Committee.

Meanwhile, Vonne Andring, executive director of the state GOP, attacked Wolf for the state's high number of deaths in nursing homes and "secretive" business waiver process.

 A majority of Pennsylvanians approve of Wolf's actions, polls show. Biden holds a 6.5% lead over Trump in the swing state, according to Real Clear Politics.

For his part, Biden has taken criticism for remaining largely out of sight throughout the pandemic. Meanwhile, Trump has remained front and center with near daily media conferences, a stream of Twitter posts and regular visits to businesses in swing states. 

State officials have said that the coronavirus' spread has peaked, but numbers continue to climb each day as the state expands testing.

As of Wednesday, York County had 965 coronavirus cases and 22 deaths linked to the virus.

Statewide, there have been 69,147 cases and 5,265 deaths.

— Logan Hullinger can be reached at lhullinger@yorkdispatch.com or via Twitter at @LoganHullYD.