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With President Donald Trump recovering from COVID-19, the Commission on Presidential Debates has a tough decision: what to do about the upcoming debates when the president of the United States has been diagnosed with the same disease that’s killed over 200,000 Americans.
The next debate is scheduled for Thursday, October 15, just nine days after Trump was released from the hospital.
The president insists he’s ready to take on his Democratic opponent next week, but others aren’t so sure the debate can safely carry on as normal. The Republican mayor of Miami, the city hosting the debate, said Tuesday he has no interest in having the president in town.
“I don’t think it’s safe, not for him and anybody else, anywhere or anyone he interacts with,” Mayor Francis Suarez told Politico. “How many people are infected in his inner circle, in the White House, senators, et cetera?”
Joe Biden is also erring on the side of caution.
“Well, I think if he still has COVID, we shouldn't have a debate," the former vice president told reporters in Maryland on Tuesday. "I think we're gonna have to follow very strict guidelines. Too many people have been infected, and it's a very serious problem. And so I'll be guided by the guidelines of the Cleveland Clinic, and what the docs say is the right thing to do."
The Commission on Presidential Debates is contemplating a number of contingency plans for next Thursday’s debate, according to CNN. At least one commission member told the news outlet that holding the debates virtually is an option. The commission could also use plexiglass barriers similar to the ones that will be used during tonight’s vice presidential debate in Salt Lake City.
The Commission did not return VICE News’ request for comment.
Alongside a flood of tweets covering his diagnosis, lies about the severity of the deadly virus, and baseless speculation about the motives of Chris Wallace, who moderated the disastrous first debate, Trump said Tuesday that he’s looking forward to debating Biden in Miami on Oct. 15.
Tim Murtaugh, a spokesman for the Trump campaign, echoed the president and told Politico that Trump “will be healthy and will be there.”
“There’s no getting out of this one for Biden, and his protectors in the media can’t cover for him,” Murtaugh said, according to Politico.
Trump has continued to downplay the virus. On Monday, he tweeted that American’ should not be afraid of contracting COVID-19.
It’s still unclear when exactly the president contracted the virus, making it difficult to say when it would be safe for him to be around others in a public setting. Though the president’s personal physician insists that Trump was free of symptoms as of Tuesday, CDC guidelines suggest those infected with COVID-19 remain isolated at least 10 days after symptoms first appear and 24 hours after fevers begin to subside without medication.
With both candidates well into their 70s, an age group that’s been particularly vulnerable to the deadly disease, health experts are warning that the risks outweigh the benefits, at least until more is known about the scale of infections in the White House and the president’s diagnosis.
One of the Miami mayor’s top medical advisors, Dr. Aileen Marty, said outright that the president shouldn’t attend the debate.
“Under no circumstance should he be traveling to perform in a debate at this time,” Marty said Tuesday. “He is contagious to others and a health risk to others. Doing so is also a health risk to him.
In addition to potential risks for Biden and Trump’s health, hosting a debate, even virtually, would require staffing, which could expose others.
So far, at least 10 White House staffers and GOP senior officials have tested positive for COVID-19, including Trump’s senior adviser Stephen Miller, who was diagnosed Tuesday.