Surging coronavirus colors White House race in closing days

  • President Donald Trump arrives for a campaign rally at Robeson County Fairgrounds, Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020, in Lumberton, N.C.

    President Donald Trump arrives for a campaign rally at Robeson County Fairgrounds, Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020, in Lumberton, N.C. Associated Press

  • Supporters of President Donald Trump listen as he speaks during a campaign rally at Robeson County Fairgrounds, Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020, in Lumberton, N.C.

    Supporters of President Donald Trump listen as he speaks during a campaign rally at Robeson County Fairgrounds, Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020, in Lumberton, N.C. Associated Press

  • Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden speaks at a drive-in campaign stop at Bucks County Community College in Bristol, Pa., Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020.

    Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden speaks at a drive-in campaign stop at Bucks County Community College in Bristol, Pa., Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020. Associated Press

  • Musician Jon Bon Jovi performs at a campaign event for Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden at Dallas High School in Dallas, Pa., Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020.

    Musician Jon Bon Jovi performs at a campaign event for Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden at Dallas High School in Dallas, Pa., Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020. Associated Press

  • People listen during a campaign stop for Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden at Bucks County Community College, Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020, in Bristol, Pa.

    People listen during a campaign stop for Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden at Bucks County Community College, Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020, in Bristol, Pa. Associated Press

  • President Donald Trump waves after speaking during a campaign rally at Robeson County Fairgrounds, Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020, in Lumberton, N.C.

    President Donald Trump waves after speaking during a campaign rally at Robeson County Fairgrounds, Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020, in Lumberton, N.C. Associated Press

  • President Donald Trump talks with reporters after casting his ballot in the presidential election, Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020, in West Palm Beach, Fla.

    President Donald Trump talks with reporters after casting his ballot in the presidential election, Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020, in West Palm Beach, Fla. Associated Press

  • People listen during a campaign stop for Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden at Bucks County Community College, Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020, in Bristol, Pa.

    People listen during a campaign stop for Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden at Bucks County Community College, Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020, in Bristol, Pa. Associated Press

  • President Donald Trump walks with Wendy Sartory Link, Supervisor of Elections Palm Beach County, after casting his ballot for the presidential election, Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020, in West Palm Beach, Fla.

    President Donald Trump walks with Wendy Sartory Link, Supervisor of Elections Palm Beach County, after casting his ballot for the presidential election, Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020, in West Palm Beach, Fla. Associated Press

  • Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden and his wife Jill Biden board their campaign plane at Philadelphia International Airport in Philadelphia, Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020, to travel to Scranton, Pa.

    Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden and his wife Jill Biden board their campaign plane at Philadelphia International Airport in Philadelphia, Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020, to travel to Scranton, Pa. Associated Press

  • Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden and his wife Jill Biden arrive at a campaign stop at Bucks County Community College, Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020, in Bristol, Pa.

    Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden and his wife Jill Biden arrive at a campaign stop at Bucks County Community College, Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020, in Bristol, Pa. Associated Press

  • President Donald Trump arrives for a campaign rally at Robeson County Fairgrounds, Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020, in Lumberton, N.C.

    President Donald Trump arrives for a campaign rally at Robeson County Fairgrounds, Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020, in Lumberton, N.C. Associated Press

  • A Trump supporter looks on during a gathering of Trump supporters at the intersection of State Route 309 and Hildebrant Road in Dallas, Pa., ahead of a visit from Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden to Dallas High School Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020. (Sean McKeag/The Citizens' Voice via AP)

    A Trump supporter looks on during a gathering of Trump supporters at the intersection of State Route 309 and Hildebrant Road in Dallas, Pa., ahead of a visit from Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden to Dallas High School Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020. (Sean McKeag/The Citizens' Voice via AP) Associated Press

  • Trump supporters gather at the interesection of State Route 309 and Hildebrant Road in Dallas, Pa., ahead of a visit from Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden to Dallas High School Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020. (Sean McKeag/The Citizens' Voice via AP)

    Trump supporters gather at the interesection of State Route 309 and Hildebrant Road in Dallas, Pa., ahead of a visit from Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden to Dallas High School Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020. (Sean McKeag/The Citizens' Voice via AP) Associated Press

  • A woman wears a hat in support of President Trump during a rally ahead of a visit from Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden to Dallas High School in Dallas, Pa., Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020. (Sean McKeag/The Citizens' Voice via AP)

    A woman wears a hat in support of President Trump during a rally ahead of a visit from Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden to Dallas High School in Dallas, Pa., Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020. (Sean McKeag/The Citizens' Voice via AP) Associated Press

  • Scott Hadsall, of Harveys Lake, stands at the back of a truck as he waves flags in support of President Trump to passing vehicles at the intersection of State Route 309 and Hildebrant Road in Dallas, Pa., ahead of a visit from Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden to Dallas High School Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020. (Sean McKeag/The Citizens' Voice via AP)

    Scott Hadsall, of Harveys Lake, stands at the back of a truck as he waves flags in support of President Trump to passing vehicles at the intersection of State Route 309 and Hildebrant Road in Dallas, Pa., ahead of a visit from Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden to Dallas High School Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020. (Sean McKeag/The Citizens' Voice via AP) Associated Press

  • Supporters of Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden hold up signs and wave flags ahead of Biden's visit to Dallas High School in Dallas, Pa., Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020. (Sean McKeag/The Citizens' Voice via AP)

    Supporters of Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden hold up signs and wave flags ahead of Biden's visit to Dallas High School in Dallas, Pa., Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020. (Sean McKeag/The Citizens' Voice via AP) Associated Press

  • Jeff Olson, of Dallas, straightens a flag in his hat during a Trump rally at the intersection of State Route 309 and Hildebrant Road in Dallas, Pa., ahead of a visit from Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden to Dallas High School Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020. (Sean McKeag/The Citizens' Voice via AP)

    Jeff Olson, of Dallas, straightens a flag in his hat during a Trump rally at the intersection of State Route 309 and Hildebrant Road in Dallas, Pa., ahead of a visit from Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden to Dallas High School Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020. (Sean McKeag/The Citizens' Voice via AP) Associated Press

  • Trump supporters march to the entrance of Dallas High School on Hildebrandt Rd. in Dallas, Pa., to wait for the arrival of Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden, Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020. (Sean McKeag/The Citizens' Voice via AP)

    Trump supporters march to the entrance of Dallas High School on Hildebrandt Rd. in Dallas, Pa., to wait for the arrival of Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden, Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020. (Sean McKeag/The Citizens' Voice via AP) Associated Press

  • Trump supporter Yuko Matsuoka, of Tokyo, Japan, yells "Four more years," during a gathering of hundreds of Trump supporters at the intersection of State Route 309 and Hildebrant Road in Dallas, Pa., ahead of a visit from Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden to Dallas High School Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020. (Sean McKeag/The Citizens' Voice via AP)

    Trump supporter Yuko Matsuoka, of Tokyo, Japan, yells "Four more years," during a gathering of hundreds of Trump supporters at the intersection of State Route 309 and Hildebrant Road in Dallas, Pa., ahead of a visit from Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden to Dallas High School Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020. (Sean McKeag/The Citizens' Voice via AP) Associated Press

  • A President Trump supporter takes a selfie at the intersection of State Route 309 and Hildebrant Road in Dallas, Pa., ahead of a visit from Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden to Dallas High School Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020. (Sean McKeag/The Citizens' Voice via AP)

    A President Trump supporter takes a selfie at the intersection of State Route 309 and Hildebrant Road in Dallas, Pa., ahead of a visit from Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden to Dallas High School Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020. (Sean McKeag/The Citizens' Voice via AP) Associated Press

  • Annie Howell, of Swoyersville, waves a flag in support of President Trump to passing vehicles at the interesection of State Route 309 and Hildebrant Road in Dallas, Pa., ahead of a visit from Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden to Dallas High School Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020. (Sean McKeag/The Citizens' Voice via AP)

    Annie Howell, of Swoyersville, waves a flag in support of President Trump to passing vehicles at the interesection of State Route 309 and Hildebrant Road in Dallas, Pa., ahead of a visit from Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden to Dallas High School Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020. (Sean McKeag/The Citizens' Voice via AP) Associated Press

  • A vehicle decorated with signs in support of Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden drives on State Route 309 amidst a Trump rally ahead of a visit from Biden to Dallas High School in Dallas, Pa., Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020. (Sean McKeag/The Citizens' Voice via AP)

    A vehicle decorated with signs in support of Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden drives on State Route 309 amidst a Trump rally ahead of a visit from Biden to Dallas High School in Dallas, Pa., Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020. (Sean McKeag/The Citizens' Voice via AP) Associated Press

 
 
Updated 10/24/2020 10:46 PM

WAUKESHA, Wis. -- President Donald Trump assured supporters packed shoulder to shoulder at a trio of rallies Saturday that 'we're rounding the turn' on the coronavirus and mocked challenger Joe Biden for raising alarms about the pandemic, despite surging cases around the country and more positive infections at the White House.

Trump's remarks came hours before the White House announced that a top aide to Vice President Mike Pence had tested positive for the virus. Pence has been in close contact with the adviser, the White House said, but still planned to keep traveling and holding rallies around the country.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The revelation of another high-ranking administration official testing positive for the virus coupled with the administration's decision to continue business as usual punctuated a day that was marked the starkly different approaches that Trump and Biden are taking to campaigning in the age of the novel coronavirus.

Pence's office confirmed late Saturday that his chief of staff, Marc Short, had tested positive - the public announcement coming just as Trump was wrapping up a day of big rallies in North Carolina, Ohio and Wisconsin, three battleground states that will have enormous impact on deciding the Nov. 3 election.

Pence is considered a 'close contact' under Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, but will continue to campaign, his spokesman said. 'In consultation with the White House Medical Unit, the Vice President will maintain his schedule in accordance with the CDC guidelines for essential personnel," Pence spokesman Devin O'Malley said.

O'Malley added that Pence and his wife, Karen Pence, both tested negative for the virus on Saturday 'and remain in good health.' Pence, who held campaign events in Florida on Saturday, is set to campaign in North Carolina on Sunday.

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The revelation bookended a day in which Biden and Trump demonstrated remarkably different attitudes about what they saw as safe behavior in the homestretch of a campaign that, as with all aspects of American life, has been upended by the pandemic.

"We don't want to become superspreaders,' Biden told supporters at a 'drive-in" rally Saturday in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, picking up a term that has been used to describe the Rose Garden event in late September in which Trump announced his latest Supreme Court nominee. More than two dozen people linked to the White House have contracted COVID-19 since that gathering, as have campaign aides. Trump spent more than three days hospitalized at Walter Reed Military Medical Center after becoming stricken.

Biden pressed his case that Trump was showing dangerous indifference to the surging virus on a day he looked to boost his candidacy with the star power of rock legend Jon Bon Jovi, who performed before Biden took the stage at a second drive-in rally in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania.

Meanwhile, in Lumberton, North Carolina, his tongue firmly in cheek, Trump called Biden 'an inspiring guy" for raising alarm about the pandemic. The president said that he watched Biden's Bucks County rally as he flew to North Carolina and sarcastically observed that it appeared attendees, who were in their cars, weren't properly socially distancing.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Trump at his rallies repeatedly criticized the news media for focusing on the virus, which has killed about 224,000 people in the United States and more than 1 million across the globe.

'It's always cases, cases, cases. They don't talk about deaths,' Trump complained to a crowd of several thousand at an outdoor rally in Circleville Ohio, where few wore masks even as they stood and sat shoulder to shoulder. 'They're trying to scare everybody,' he said.

Earlier, at a rally in North Carolina, Trump questioned the value of testing, taking a stance in opposition to public health experts across the globe.

'You know why we have cases?' Trump asked. ''Cause we test so much. And in many ways, it's good. And in many ways, it's foolish. In many ways, OK? In many ways it's very foolish.'

The rise in coronavirus cases is 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 say hospitals are running out of space in areas where the pandemic seemed remote only months ago. And in addition to the spike in cases, in many parts of the country, the percentage of people who are testing positive for COVID-19 is up as well.

Trump went further, pushing a conspiracy theory that hospitals are over-classifying coronavirus deaths because 'doctors get more money and hospitals get more money' - even though there is no evidence of that and experts say the count is likely under-reported.

The U.S. and its reporting systems, 'are really not doing it right,' he claimed. 'They have things a little bit backwards."

As he dug in on his defense on the panic, Trump also criticized Biden for saying that the country was headed for a 'dark winter' because of the pandemic - the scenario of a surge in infections that health experts have warned about for months.

'I thought Sleepy Joe was very dark," he told his biggest crowd of the day at a night-time rally in Waukesha, Wisconsin. 'How dark was that? How horrible was that?' he asked.

A record of more than 83,000 infections were reported on Friday alone.

Biden in his stop in Luzerne reminded supporters that Trump had suggested the COVID-19 mortality rate was lower outside predominantly Democratic states.

'Where does this guy come from?" Biden said.

The president has repeatedly accused Biden and other Democrats of pushing measures that are worse than the coronavirus itself by advocating for social distancing and limits on gatherings that Trump says wreak havoc on the economy.

Biden, in an interview with Pod Save America aired Saturday, said his first priority was to 'get control of the virus" because the economy can't move forward without stemming the disease.

"As I said before, I will shut down the virus, not the economy," Biden said in Bucks County. 'We can walk and chew gum at the same time, and build back better than before."

Trump, who spent Friday night at his private Mar-a-Lago club after campaigning in Florida, visited an early voting polling site set up at a local public library to cast his own ballot Saturday morning. The president last year switched his official residence from New York to Florida, complaining that New York politicians had treated him badly.

Greeted at the polling site by a crowd of cheering supporters, Trump opted to vote in person rather than by mail. He wore a mask inside, following local rules to mitigate the spread of the virus. He later said that he voted for 'a guy named Trump" and that a poll worker asked him identification. The president said he used his passport.

Biden hasn't voted but is likely do so in person on Election Day, Nov. 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.

___

Weissert reported from Dallas, Pennsylvania, and Madhani from Washington.

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