4 Ways the Vice Presidential Debate Will Look Very Different Due to COVID

There will be no maskless faces at the upcoming vice presidential debate.

In the wake of the White House COVID outbreak, attention turned to a lack of mask wearing among President Donald Trump's guests at the first presidential debate, which took place two days before the president and First Lady Melania Trump were diagnosed with coronavirus. Now, safety is a primary concern ahead of the vice presidential debate between Vice President Mike Pence and Sen. Kamala Harris, set to take place on Wednesday, Oct. 7. To make sure the event can take place with everyone staying healthy, these are the changes that have been put in place for the vice presidential debate. And for more on the latest with Trump and COVID, check out The Harrowing Side Effects of Trump's COVID Treatment.

Anyone not wearing a mask will be escorted out

closeup of person wearing blue surgical mask to protect against Covid-19

The rules for the debates are set by the Commission on Presidential Debates, with the support of the Cleveland Clinic, which is helping to set the health protocols for these events. One point of contention from the first presidential debate was Trump's family and his chief of staff, Mark Meadows, not wearing masks while in the audience. Moderator and Fox News anchor Chris Wallace spoke out on Fox News Sunday while interviewing Trump's campaign adviser Steve Cortes: "Everybody was told to wear a mask. Why did the first family and chief of staff feel that the rules for everybody else didn't apply to them?"

Cortes claimed that everybody had been tested before the event thus removing the need for masks, but Wallace reaffirmed that "there was no freedom of choice. They broke the rules." For the vice presidential debate there will be no room for interpretation of the guidelines with a factsheet distributed by the Commission now clearly stating that, "If anyone does not wear a mask, they will be escorted out," CNBC reports. And for more on the president's status, check out Dr. Fauci Just Gave This Eerie Warning About Trump's Condition.

All guests must undergo COVID testing.

COVID test

There will be a limited number of guests allowed to attend the vice presidential debate at Kingsbury Hall at the University of Utah, moderated by USA Today Washington Bureau Chief Susan Page. All guests will undergo testing before being allowed entry—this stipulation was in place for the first event, with candidates under an "honor system" to comply, according to Wallace.

However, Wallace claimed that the candidates arrived too late to be tested by the debate organizers (11 other people were denied entry to the venue on the night, according to the Cleveland Clinic). For the vice presidential debate, there will be no exceptions. And for more lessons from the White House outbreak in regards to testing, check out What the White House Outbreak Has Taught Us About Rapid COVID Tests.

There will be plexiglass.

plexiglass shield to prevent spread of COVID

Unlike the presidential debate where Trump and Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden faced each other from a distance of seven feet, sans barrier, the vice presidential debate will see a plexiglass barrier separating the two politicians, a reported request from Biden's camp. In response, Pence spokesperson Katie Miller told Axios, "If Sen. Harris wants to use a fortress around herself, have at it." And for more up-to-date information, sign up for our daily newsletter.

The candidates will stand further apart.

closeup of man's suit standing in front of podium

In addition to the plexiglass, the vice presidential candidates will stand at an increased distance of over 12 feet, seemingly in response to the CDC's latest change to its guidance that "some infections can be spread by exposure to virus in small droplets and particles that can linger in the air for minutes to hours. These viruses may be able to infect people who are further than six feet away from the person who is infected or after that person has left the space." And for more changes from the leading health agency in the U.S., check out The CDC Has Finally Acknowledged That COVID Spreads Through the Air.

John Quinn
John Quinn is a London-based writer and editor who specializes in lifestyle topics. Read more
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