More than 210,000 people have died so far from the virus.
Vice President Mike Pence dodged questions about the massive death toll from the coronavirus during Wednesday night's vice presidential debate against California Sen. Kamala Harris in Salt Lake City, Utah.
In the first set of questions, debate moderator Susan Page, Washington bureau chief at USA Today, noted that "more than 200,000 [people] have died of COVID-19 since February" and that "the U.S. death toll as a percentage of our population is higher than that of every other wealthy nation on Earth."
"You head the administration's coronavirus Task Force," she said, turning to Pence. "Why is the U.S. death toll as a percentage our of population higher than that of almost every other wealthy country?"
Pence dodged, refusing to answer the question directly.
"I want the American people to know that from the very first day, President Donald Trump has put the health of America first," he said, referring to Trump's decision to suspend travel for some people coming to the United States from China.
The vice president went on to criticize Biden's reaction to the travel ban.
"He said it was xenophobic and hysterical," Pence claimed falsely.
That's false. In a June interview with Fox News' Sean Hannity, Trump himself admitted Biden had never made such a comment, claiming, "He never said 'xenophobic' cause I don't think he knows what the word means."
The Trump administration has come under heavy criticism for its handling of the pandemic since the beginning. Early attempts at delivering test kits to states, for instance, were deemed a failure after it was discovered they didn't actually work. Trump and his allies also repeatedly suggested it was not his responsibility to ensure hospitals and health workers had proper protective gear and supplies, claiming it was up to the states.
Even as the virus was ravaging the country, Trump continued to downplay the danger, telling the public that the flu was much more deadly and that safety measures and lockdowns were unnecessary.
In early September, veteran journalist Bob Woodward released audio of interviews he'd had with Trump for his book "Rage," some as far back as February, in which Trump admitted the coronavirus was "more deadly than even your strenuous flus," and suggested it posed a serious threat to the country.
In a separate interview days later, after the coronavirus outbreak had been declared a national emergency, Trump added, "I wanted to always play it down. I still like playing it down, because I don't want to create a panic."
More than 210,000 Americans have died from the virus since the start of the pandemic. In the United States alone, there have been at least 7.57 million cases.