When Vice President Mike Pence and Sen. Kamala Harris face off during Wednesday’s vice presidential debate, they will be separated by plexiglass. The plans, approved by the Commission on Presidential Debates, are the latest precautionary measure to be taken after concern was raised amid the election cycle following President Donald Trump's coronavirus diagnosis.
According to Politico, the Pence and Harris teams have spent the past several days negotiating the terms of the upcoming debate, which is scheduled to take place at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City beginning at 9 p.m. ET. Along with approving plans to move the two candidates seats from seven feet to 13 feet apart, more than doubling the recommended six feet of social distance, plans to separate the candidates with plexiglass was approved Monday. Plexiglass – which was used by Jaime Harrison, the Democrat challenging Sen. Lindsay Graham, during a debate over the weekend – will also be used to separate Pence and Harris from the moderator, Susan Page.
While the plans are supported by the Cleveland Clinic, which is "helping to set health protocols for the forums," the use of plexiglass is not gaining fanfare from at least one of the candidates. In a statement, Katie Miller, a Pence spokeswoman, said, "If Sen. Harris wants to use a fortress around herself, have at it." People familiar with the talks also claimed that Pence's campaign was opposed to the use of plexiglass, though Harris' welcomed it.
The new precautionary measures follow increased concern for the health and safety of those debating as well as those moderating the debates. On Thursday, Trump as well as First Lady Melania Trump tested positive for the coronavirus. Those positive results came just hours after senior advisor Hope Hicks received a positive test result and just two days after all three had attended the first presidential debate, held in Cleveland on Sept. 29. Although members of the Trump family had entered the debate hall with masks, they took them off after being seated, despite both campaigns agreeing to a set of rules, according to Axios.
Currently, the fate of the remaining debates remains unclear, as Trump was only discharged from Walter Reed Medical Center Monday night. A second debate is scheduled for Thursday, Oct. 15 in Miami. Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden said Monday he is willing to continue the debate as planned if experts said it was safe, Forbes reports. A third and final debate is scheduled for Thursday, Oct. 22 in Nashville.