Biden and Sanders skipped a handshake, greeting each other instead with an elbow bump, then took their positions at podiums spaced 6 feet apart in keeping with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for limiting the virus’ spread.
The next viral social media moment came less than a minute into the debate, when Biden began his comments with a cough.
Both Biden and Sanders called for increased testing in the U.S. for the rapidly spreading coronavirus and economic relief for Americans suffering as a result of the global pandemic.
“This is bigger than any one of us. This calls for a national rallying for one another," the former vice president said.
Sanders panned Trump's handling of the crisis, urging the president to stop hindering medical professionals by “blabbering with unfactual information that is confusing the American public."
Sanders said if he were president he would make sure no one has to pay for coronavirus testing or treatment. Biden later said he also believes no one should have to pay.
The coronavirus pandemic dominated the start of the debate, reflecting how quickly it has also overtaken almost every aspect of American life. Schools are shut down across the country, travel has been significantly limited and the likely economic consequences have sent financial markets plummeting.
Biden and Sanders both called for increased testing for the virus and economic relief for Americans who will suffer.
The fact the debate was held without a studio audience received mostly positive reviews.
Biden and Sanders face each other Tuesday in four presidential primaries, including the important Florida race as well as Illinois, Ohio and Arizona.
On March 17, 577 delegates are at stake in Florida (219); Illinois (155); Ohio (136); and Arizona (67).