How Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders Are Personally Protecting Themselves from Coronavirus Pandemic
Biden and Sanders are both in their late 70s and, as such, in one of the groups vulnerable to the most severe complications from the novel coronavirus
As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from CDC, WHO, and local public health departments and visit our coronavirus hub.
Former Vice President Joe Biden and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders said Sunday night they were both taking necessary precautions amid the novel coronavirus pandemic that has sickened more than 170,000 people worldwide and killed more than 6,000, including 66 in the U.S.
Biden and Sanders — the front-runners for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination to face Donald Trump in November — are both in their late 70s and, as such, in one of the groups vulnerable to the most severe complications from the respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus.
Further, Sanders had a heart attack while campaigning last year, though he quickly rebounded. Underlying health conditions are another risk factor for coronavirus patients.
“Thank God, right now, I do not have any symptoms and I feel very grateful for that,” Sanders, 78, said at Sunday’s Democratic primary debate.
The debate had been scheduled for Phoenix, Arizona, with a live audience. But the audience was scuttled and the debate moved to host CNN’s studios in Washington, D.C., as health officials urge “social distancing” to slow the spread of the virus.
Biden and Sanders have both canceled their large-scale public events — swapping them for “virtual town halls” and the like — to encourage the public to avoid large gatherings.
Sanders said at Sunday’s debate that his “entire staff is working from home” and, he noted, he and Biden did not shake hands at the start of the night. They opted for an elbow bump instead.
“I am very careful about the people I am interacting with,” Sanders said. “I am using a lot of soap and hand sanitizers to make sure that I do not get the infection.”
Biden echoed that, saying, “Fortunately, I do not have any of underlying conditions you talked about. … Knock on wood, I’m in good health.” (Here added a self-deprecating knock on his head.)
“I’m taking all precautions anyone would take, whether they’re 30 years old, 60 years old or 80 years old,” Biden said, continuing, “I wash my hands God knows how many times a day … I make sure I don’t touch my face and so on.”
He was also using hand sanitizer, wasn’t shaking anyone’s hands, avoiding crowds and his staff was working from home, he said.
“I’m taking all the precautions everyone else should be taking,” he said.
As the new coronavirus, which first emerged in December in China, has spread around the world, it has infected political figures along with tens of thousands of others.
President Trump, who is also in his late 70s and who had spent time with a coronavirus patient before the man knew he was sick, said this weekend that he had gotten tested for the virus and it was negative.
The White House has also increased its monitoring of people who come into contact with the president and Vice President Mike Pence.
Trump’s daughter Ivanka Trump, who is a senior White House aide, worked from home on Friday as a precautionary move after coming into contact with an Australian government official who later tested positive for coronavirus.
As of Monday morning, there were about 3,600 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the U.S. and 66 deaths, most of them in Washington state, an epicenter of the outbreak.
Worldwide, there were about 175,000 confirmed cases and 6,700 deaths.