JOE Biden has been urged to take a test for coronavirus after repeatedly coughing during a televised Democratic debate.
Concerned CNN viewers pointed out that President Donald Trump has tested negative for the killer bug.
There was no firm handshake between the former vice-president and Sen. Bernie Sanders – in line with US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance – on their first head-to-head debate.
Instead they bumped elbows and kept their distance from each other, standing six feet apart at podiums, also in keeping with advice to limit the spread of the coronavirus.
They addressed the nation, and each other, from a television studio in Washington without an in-person audience.
With dozens of new infections being diagnosed across Hawaii, Alabama and Florida, Sanders, 78, said: "I'm using a lot of soap and hand sanitizer."
Is anyone in the media or CNN going to ask Biden if he has been tested for the coronavirus?
Biden, 77, added: "This is a crisis. We're at war with a virus."
But it was the latter's coughing fits that attracted as much attention as what was said during the debate.
On Twitter, for example, one man pointed out that they "opened the debate; the first thing Biden did was start coughing."
Dave Rubin tweeted: "Biden coughed and touched his mouth in literally [the] first 5 seconds of the debate."
Reporter Ryan Saavedra urged: "Is anyone in the media or the CNN debate moderators going to ask Biden if he has been tested for the coronavirus?
"He has repeatedly coughed tonight.
"The media hounded Trump for days until he got tested, and released the results. Fair is fair, right?"
The president took the test after recently being in contact with three people who tested positive for the virus, including members of the Brazilian president’s delegation who visited him at his Florida resort.
Sean Conley, the president’s physician, confirmed in a memo that Trump has tested negative for the bug.
He added: "One week after having dinner with the Brazilian delegation in Mar-a-Lago, the President remains symptom-free."
During the debate on CNN, Biden said: "I'm taking all the precautions. I make sure I don't touch my face."
But an Associated Press fact check pointed out: "As many Americans have discovered, that's easier said than done.
"He defied two recommended precautions during the debate, coughing into his hand, not his elbow, and touching his face several times, once with his hand on his chin.
"He defied two recommended precautions during the debate, coughing into his hand, not his elbow, and touching his face."
Biden and Sanders sought in Sunday's Democratic debate to cast themselves as best-positioned to lead the nation through a global pandemic, which has so far claimed more than 6,500 lives worldwide.
Both men criticised the president's response to the fast-moving coronavirus.
Biden pledged to deploy the US military to help with recovery efforts and warned that a federal financial bailout may be necessary to stabilize the economy.
Sanders argued that the government-run health insurance system he has long championed would allow America to respond faster to a health crisis.
When the Vermont senator asked his opponent what he would tell Americans about the emergency situation, Biden coughed several times into his hand – rather than the inside of his elbow.
He replied: "This is bigger than any one of us."
Sanders said: "One of the reasons that we are unprepared, and have been unprepared, is we don't have a system.
"We've got thousands of private insurance plans.
"That is not a system that is prepared to provide health care to all people in a good year, without the epidemic."
Biden, who supports adding a public insurance option to the current system, argued that a pandemic was not a moment to attempt to push through an overhaul of the American health insurance system.
The pandemic has upset the campaign, prompting Biden and Sanders to cancel rallies.
Instead, they are holding virtual events with voters around the country.
And with both candidates in their late 70s, they said they have increased personal precautions to guard against the virus which is a greater risk to the elderly.
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