The comment was made as Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden discussed the economy and the COVID-19 pandemic.
"People want their schools... they don't want to be shut down, they don't want their states shut down. They don't want their restaurants. I look at New York, it's so sad what's happening in New York, it's almost like a ghost town and I'm not sure it can ever recover, what they've done in New York. People want their places open. They want to get back to their lives," Trump said.
"People want to be safe," Biden responded.
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Trump and Biden began the first presidential debate with heated exchanges over other topics like health care and the Supreme Court.
Fitting for an edge in their bitter campaign, the two men frequently interrupted each other with angry interjections, with Biden eventually snapping at Trump "Will you shut up, man?" That was after the president badgered him over his refusal to comment on whether he would try to expand the Supreme Court in retaliation if Trump's high court pick, Amy Coney Barrett, was confirmed to replace the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
"The fact is that everything he's said so far is simply a lie," Biden said. "I'm not here to call out his lies. Everybody knows he's a liar."
Trump struggled to define his ideas for replacing the Affordable Care Act on health care in the debate's early moments and defended his nomination of Barrett, declaring that "I was not elected for three years, I'm elected for four years."
"We won the election. Elections have consequences. We have the Senate. We have the White House and we have a phenomenal nominee, respected by all."
ALSO WATCH | Biden references Trump comments on disinfectants, COVID-19 during debate
(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)
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