The first presidential debate of 2020 between Joe Biden and President Trump presented COVID-19 security measures as a socially distant audience and no handshake, reflecting how the live political events of 2020 have changed and will continue to evolve in the in the midst of the current pandemic.
The small audience of the debate were socially distanced and pre-tested for COVID -19 while Biden and Trump, who did not have to wear masks on the podium, agreed not to shake hands at the event , which was broadcast live at 6 p.m. PT on several new channels and broadcast live on The Washington Post, in order to mitigate the risks. The debate took place at the Cleveland Clinic and the Health Education Campus of Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland.
Prior to the debate, Case Western University and the Cleveland Clinic published several safety precautions that the event was taking up, including putting extra space between seats, limiting audience size and performing “personal health exams”. According to the Associated Press, the atrium of the Sheila and Eric Samson pavilion, where the debate takes place, could host a hundred socially distanced people in person. Each campaign received 20 tickets for its members and the seats were fitted with antibacterial wipes.
Fox News moderator Chris Wallace also said that a rule of thumb for the debate was that the audience “promised to be silent – no cheering, booing or other interruptions so we can get on with it. focus on what the candidates have to say “- and the public has largely adhered to this rule. COVID-19 has been shown to spread via respiratory droplets, which can be released when people clap or speak.
Trump showed he had a mask on when, at one point, Wallace asked Trump about his statements about masks to prevent COVID-19. He took a mask out of his jacket pocket: “I have a mask right here, I’ll put on a mask when I think I need it,” he said.
After the debate, First Lady Melania Trump and Biden’s wife Jill Biden arrived on stage to greet their husbands: Melania was not wearing a mask, while Jill did.
COVID-19 was naturally a central talking point in the debate: Biden criticized Trump’s response to the pandemic, claiming that “200,000 people … have died under his watch.” Trump argued that if Biden had been in charge more people would have died and continued to assert (unlike some health experts) that drug companies could have a vaccine by election day. Biden argued that experts believed a vaccine could be ready for the public by next summer and said, “The president has no plans.”
Starting Monday, Cleveland has recorded more than 150,000 reported cases of COVID-19 and nearly 5,000 deaths. His 21-day average reported cases was 975.