Joe Biden left his Delaware home to lay a wreath on Monday to mark Memorial Day, emerging from a two-month quarantine.
After departing the ceremony at the Delaware Memorial Bridge Veterans Memorial Park, Biden told reporters: “Never forget the sacrifices that these men and women made. Never, ever forget.”
But he also added: “It feels good to be out of my house.”
The former vice-president’s trip came a day after he criticized Donald Trump for spending part of his Memorial Day holiday weekend tweeting and golfing as the US coronavirus death toll nears 100,000.
“The presidency is about a lot more than tweeting from your golf cart,” Biden tweeted on Sunday, saying that Trump was not “prepared” for “taking on the ultimate responsibility for the biggest decisions in the world.
“I promise you I will be,” he wrote.
Since abruptly canceling a campaign rally in Cleveland on March 10, Biden has made no appearances in public. Instead he has adjusted to coronavirus lockdown by building a television studio in his home, which he has used to make appearances on news programs, late-night shows and virtual campaign fundraising events.
His Memorial Day event follows Trump’s repeated mockery, which has included referring to him as the “sleepy guy in a basement”. But at 77, Biden is especially vulnerable to the effects of the coronavirus, which heavily impacts the elderly – though so is Trump, who turns 74 next month.
Biden’s quarantine has included technical glitches and other moments that have left him vulnerable to questions surrounding his age, including coughing into his hand, despite advice from medical health experts that it is safer to cough into the elbow, and making the claim that just 88,000 Americans had been infected with Covid-19. In fact, more than 1.6 million have contracted the virus.
When Biden emerged into the open air on Monday, he wore a face mask, in contrast to Trump, who has refused to cover his face in public as health officials suggest. Biden and his wife, Jill, laid a wreath of white flowers tied with a white bow and bowed their heads in silence at the park.
Some Democratic strategists have openly worried Biden’s efforts to position himself as a political leader with the experience and judgment to lead the country out of the crisis have been hampered by staying home and following health experts social distancing recommendations. However, he is currently beating Trump in national polls and most key battleground states.
“We will never make any choices that put our staff or voters in harm’s way,” Biden’s campaign manager, Jen O’Malley Dillon, said recently, adding that the campaign would resume more traditional activities “when safety allows, and we will not do that a day sooner”.