US election live updates: Biden to lay out pandemic response plan

Biden to outline plan for coronavirus response as Trump, defying most experts, says vaccine may be ready in weeks.

  • Democratic candidate Joe Biden set to give a speech on the coronavirus on Wednesday from Delaware.

  • President Donald Trump holds call with Jewish leaders day after UAE, Bahrain, Israel deal signings.

  • Vice President Mike Pence goes to Ohio, where polls show close race, despite Trump’s eight-point 2016 victory.

  • Biden ramps up healthcare ads day after Trump confronted on Obamacare at town hall.

  • Jill Biden heads to New Hampshire and Ivanka Trump goes to Arizona, with 48 days until November 3.

Here are the latest updates:

Wednesday, September 16

13:30 ET – Biden receives virtual coronavirus briefing

Joe Biden is receiving a virtual briefing from a former US surgeon general and a collection of health experts on how best to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Biden’s campaign created a virtual studio that connected the former vice president via video with former Surgeon General Vivek Murthy and six other experts at a theater in downtown Wilmington, Delaware. Biden will give a speech on the topic later in the day.

David Kessler, board chairman and director for the Center for Science in the Public Interest, stressed for Biden the important of requirements increasing “universal masking” but also increased testing and contact tracing. He suggested doing so could save thousands of lives and ultimately be more effective between now and early next year as vaccines are being developed.

13:00 ET – CDC director denies agency altered publications on coronavirus

The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has told Senate lawmakers that his agency has not altered its scientific publications on the coronavirus.

That comes despite pressure from Trump officials who allege the agency has worked against the re-election of Trump.

Dr Robert Redfield testified that the CDC’s “scientific integrity … has not been compromised and it will not be compromised under my watch.”

Last week news outlets reported that Michael Caputo, a Health and Human Services Department political appointee, tried to gain editorial control over CDC’s weekly scientific report. In a separate online video last week, Caputo reportedly said some CDC scientists constituted a “resistance unit” conspiring against the Trump administration.

12:30 ET – Report: Group pays teenagers to pump out pro-Trump disinformation on social media

An affiliate of a prominent conservative youth organisation based in Arizona is paying teenagers, including minors, to pump out pro-Trump disinformation on social media, according to a Washington Post report. 

The operation is similar to those used by bots to send out spam-like messages, but is carried out by people paid to use their own accounts, according to the newspaper. It is being bankrolled by Turning Point Action, which is an affiliate of Turning Point USA, a prominent conservative youth organisation. The posts to do not reveal any connection to the group.

The Post reported the operation had generated thousands of posts over summer on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, in what experts said was one of the most ambitious domestic election influence campaigns of this election cycle.

Twitter and Facebook suspended several accounts after being contacted by the newspaper, meanwhile, a field director for Turning Point Action said the comparison to a troll farm was a “gross mischaracterisation”, describing the the operation as “sincere political activism conducted by real people who passionately hold the beliefs they describe online, not an anonymous troll farm in Russia.”

12:00 ET – Billionaire Sheldon Adelson plans to spend up to $50m to support Trump

Casino magnate Sheldon Adelson is planning a spending spree that could total up to $50 million to help Trump beat Biden, according to CNBC. 

A source told CNBC that Adelson was currently in touch with Republican officials over where to best deploy the money, amid reports that Trump’s war chest is lacking following a free-spending approach early in the campaign.

Billionaire Mike Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York City, said earlier this week that he would spend $100 million to help Biden win Florida, a state considered essential to any path to victory for Trump.

11:30 ET – Democrat poised to become US highest ranking transgender elected official

Sarah McBride, a transgender rights activist, is set to become the country’s highest ranking openly transgender elected official after winning the primary for a State Senate seat in Delaware , according to the New York Times. 

McBride, 30, is expected to easily win during the general election in November.  

“Right now in America, we are seeing voices that for so long were pushed to the margins and to the shadows finally being heard,” she told the newspaper.  

Biden wrote the forward to McBride’s 2018 book, which detailed her work for transgender rights.

10:30 ET – Delaware: Political firebrand wins Republican primary Senate seat

Political newcomer and firebrand Lauren Witzke, who campaigned on halting US immigration for 10 years, has won the Republican US Senate primary in Delaware, defeating the party’s endorsed candidate.

In November, Witzke will challenge incumbent Senator Chris Coons, who easily won the Democratic primary and is expected to win handily in the deeply blue state. 

Witzke, who worked as an Iowa field operator for President Donald Trump last year, defeated attorney James DeMartino, a former marine who has twice run unsuccessfully for the legislative seat held by Delaware’s Democratic state House speaker.

Witzke has tried to distance herself from accusations by some opponents that she supports QAnon. The far-right conspiracy theory centres on an alleged anonymous, high-ranking government official known as “Q”, who shares information about “deep state” enemies of Trump often tied to child sex trafficking.

10:00 ET – Biden campaign releases new healthcare advertisements 

The Biden campaign has said it is increasing spending in battleground states, including two new advertisements that focus on healthcare.

Two of the advertisements feature parents, a mother in Texas and a father in Arizona, who recount their experience having a child with a pre-existing condition. 

The advertisements come after Trump was confronted at a Tuesday town hall over the Obama-era Affordable Care Act, which Trump has repeatedly sought to repeal, without presenting an alternative plan. 

09:00 ET – White House seeks to clarify Trump ‘herd mentality’ statement

White House spokeswoman Kayleigh McEnany has sought to clarify statements made by Trump during a Tuesday town hall in which he said the virus would go away over a period of time as “herd mentality” would develop.

McEnany, in an interview on Fox News, said Trump was referring to “herd immunity”. 

“Well, the term ‘herd immunity’ is a medical term which means that when you have a certain percentage of a population with antibodies, you have herd immunity,” McEnany said. “It can be done via a vaccine or via prior illness that you develop the antibodies.”

“What the president said very clearly there is that a vaccine gets you there quickest,” she said.

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Hello and welcome to Al Jazeera’s continuing coverage of the US elections. This is Joseph Stepansky.

Read all the updates from yesterday (September 15) here.

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