After more than 30 minutes of posing questions almost entirely about policy and decision-making related to coronavirus, Dana Bash, one of CNN’s moderators for Sunday’s Democratic debate, took a moment to make the topic deeply personal.
It was a blunt but pertinent question for the two septuagenarian candidates vying for the Democratic nomination for president. Mr. Sanders, 78, had a heart attack last fall; Mr. Biden, 77, is just one year younger than Mr. Sanders.
As Ms. Bash noted, older people have so far been shown to be the most vulnerable to the coronavirus. Earlier Sunday, Gov. Gavin Newson of California called for all people 65 and older in the state to shelter in their homes.
Here is a transcript of the exchange:
DANA BASH: Back to this crisis. We know that people over the age of 60 and those with underlying medical conditions, especially heart disease, lung disease and diabetes, are the most vulnerable to coronavirus, and are being asked to change their behavior to protect themselves. So Senator Sanders, you’re 78 years old, you had a heart attack — what are you doing to protect yourself?
BERNIE SANDERS: Well, a great deal. Last night we had a fireside chat, not a rally, I love doing rallies and we bring many thousands of people out to our rallies. I enjoy it very much. We’re not doing that right now. In fact, our entire staff is working from home. So on a personal level, what we’re doing is, I’m not shaking hands. Joe and I did not shake hands. And I am very careful about the people I am interacting with. I’m using a lot of soap and hand sanitizers to make sure that I do not get the infection. And I have to say, thank God right now I do not have any symptoms and I feel very grateful for that.
JOSEPH R. BIDEN JR: Fortunately I don’t have any of the underlying conditions you talked about that I have to worry about. Number one. Number two, thank God for the time being — anything can happen, as my mother would say, knock on wood — that I’m in good health. Number three, I’m taking all the precautions anyone would take, whether they are 30 years old or 60 years old or 80 years old. And that is, I’m going to make sure that I do not shake hands any longer. I do not engage — we did the same thing. Our staff is all working from home. We are not doing rallies any longer. We’re doing virtual rallies, we’re doing virtual town hall meetings. We’re in a situation where now I do not — as I said, when we encounter people, we’re not going into crowds. And so I’m taking all the precautions everyone else should be taking. I wash my hands God knows how many times a day with hot water and soap. I carry with me, as a matter of fact I have in my bag outside here, hand sanitizer. I don’t know how many times a day I use that. I make sure I don’t touch my face and so on. So I’m taking all the precautions we’re telling everybody else to take.