On Thursday, US Vice President Mike Pence and Democratic Vice-President candidate Kamala Harris will meet for the first and only time at Salt Lake City, Utah for a 90-minute showdown debate for which the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) has agreed to bring in new rules in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Concerns have heightened after US President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump tested positive for COVID-19. While Trump’s condition seems to be improving since his diagnosis, his physician Sean Conley has cautioned that he is not completely out of the woods yet.
What are the new rules?
Concerns about the debate have risen after the first presidential debate took place between Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden on September 29 in Cleveland, Ohio. A statement released by Cleveland city’s government noted that the government was aware of over 11 COVID-19 cases that stemmed from pre-debate planning and set-up.
In a statement released on September 30, CPD said, “Last night’s debate made clear that additional structure should be added to the format of the remaining debates to ensure a more orderly discussion of the issues.”
According to these new rules, instead of sitting seven feet apart, Pence and Harris will sit 12 feet, 3 inches apart for the duration of the debate.
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According to a report in The New York Times, Frank J. Fahrenkopf Jr. who is the co-chairman of CPD said that Pence’s aides had recently agreed to accept the placement of plexiglass dividers as he debates with Harris. Pence’s aides had initially shown resistance to this particular measure.
According to news reports, CPD has also made wearing masks compulsory for audience members and will eject audience members who refuse to do so. During the first presidential debate, Trump’s family members and aides removed their masks inside the debate hall, which was against the rules set by the Cleveland Clinic.
Significantly, Pence has repeatedly tested negative for COVID-19 despite interacting with some White House advisers who have tested positive, the Times report mentioned.
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