Sept. 10 (UPI) -- Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris on Thursday said it was "outrageous" that President Donald Trump sought to downplay the threat of the COVID-19 pandemic as she visited Florida ahead of November's election.
Speaking at Florida Memorial University on issues affecting African American communities, the senator condemned the president for not being forthcoming with the American people about the severity of the coronavirus.
Harris' comments come after the release of an excerpt from Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Bob Woodward's new book in which he said Trump told him he played down the pandemic so as not to "create a panic."
"What we are hearing is that on Jan. 28, the president and vice president were informed about the imminence and the dangers of COVID-19," she said. "On Feb. 7, the president of the United States, who has the unique and very important responsibility of concerning himself with keeping the American people safe, was in a conversation where ... he said that COVID was deadly stuff, said that it is airborne. He knew it was airborne, that people would breathe it.
"This is an individual who is not concerned about the health, safety and well-being of the American people and is frankly engaged in a reckless disregard of the lives and well-being of the people of our country," Harris said. "I find it so outrageous."
Harris said that if elected, she and Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden will listen to scientists and "embrace the truth" of the pandemic by implementing national plans for testing, contact tracing and distributing a vaccine.
Harris was joined at the event by U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson, D-Fla., Miami Shores Mayor Crystal Wagar and community leaders.
Wilson, who introduced Harris, also blasted Trump for his handling of the pandemic.
"It doesn't just make me angry -- I am enraged," Wilson said. "We call him a racist but we have another term now because he's a murderer."
Biden will visit the state Tuesday. The location and other details of the former vice president's trip have not yet been announced. Jill Biden, the candidate's wife, hosted an online roundtable discussion focused on school reopenings in Jacksonville, Fla., earlier this week.
The visits are their first in Florida since they were each nominated at the Democratic National Convention last month.
Trump visited South Florida Tuesday to sign an executive order extending and expanding a ban on oil drilling off the state's shorelines.
With 29 electoral votes, Florida is one of the key battleground states in any presidential election. Trump beat Democrat Hillary Clinton by about 110,000 votes there four years ago.
In the last 15 U.S. presidential elections, dating back to 1960, Florida has voted for the eventual winner in all but two of the contests -- 1960, when Richard Nixon lost to John F. Kennedy, and 1992, when incumbent President George H.W. Bush lost to Bill Clinton.