US President Donald Trump on Saturday mocked Democrat Joe Biden as "an inspiring guy" for raising alarm about the pandemic even as the president attracted sizeable campaign crowds with coronavirus cases surging across the country in the closing days of the race.
Biden, pressing the case that Trump doesn't deserve a second term because of his handling of the pandemic, said at his own smaller drive-in rally outside Philadelphia that he didn't "like the idea of all this distance but it's necessary" for public health reasons.
"We don't want to become superspreaders," he said, using a term that has been used to described a White House event in late September where Trump announced his Supreme Court nominee. More than two dozen people linked to the White House have contracted Covid-19 since that gathering.
Trump criticised Biden for saying during Thursday's debate that the country is headed for a "dark winter" because of the pandemic — the scenario that health experts have warned about for months. The president jabbed at television news outlets for covering the pandemic, which has killed nearly 224,000 people in the United States. New daily infections in the US reached 83,757 on Friday, a new record that surpasses its previous record of 75,723 set on July 29.
The head of the World Health Organisation has warned that countries in the Northern Hemisphere are at a "critical juncture" as cases and deaths continue to rise.
"The next few months are going to be very tough and some countries are on a dangerous track," said WHO director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus at a press briefing on Friday.
Trump sees the situation differently. "We're rounding the turn ... our numbers are incredible," he told supporters at a rally in Lumberton, North Carolina, that drew hundreds of people who stood shoulder to shoulder.
Trump said he watched Biden's Pennsylvania rally as he flew to North Carolina and said it appeared attendees, who were in their cars, weren't properly socially distancing.
"You know why we have cases?" Trump added. "'Cause we test so much. And in many ways, it's good. And in many ways, it's foolish. In many ways, okay? In many ways it's very foolish."
Trump, who spent the night at his Mar-a-Lago resort after campaigning Friday in Florida, started his day by stopping at an early voting polling site set up at a public library to cast his own ballot. The president last year switched his official residence from New York to his private Florida club, complaining that New York politicians had treated him badly.
Greeted at the polling site by a crowd of cheering supporters, Trump could have mailed in his ballot, but opted to vote in person. He wore a mask inside, following local rules in place to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus. He told reporters that he voted for "a guy named Trump" after casting his ballot.
Biden hasn't voted and is likely do so in person on election day, November 3, as Delaware doesn't offer early voting. Trump, who has made unsubstantiated claims of massive fraud about mail-in voting, gave another plug to in-person voting.
"When you send in your ballot it could never be like that. It could never be secure like that," Trump said.
The rise in coronavirus cases are an ominous sign the disease still has a firm grip on the nation that has more confirmed virus-related deaths and infections than any other in the world. Many states are reporting a surge of cases and say hospitals are running out of space in areas where the pandemic seemed remote only months ago.
More than 54 million votes have already been cast in this election, with an additional 100 million or so expected before a winner is declared.