A plexiglass barrier will separate Vice President Mike Pence and opponent Sen. Kamala Harris at their vice presidential debate on Wednesday, in a bid to lower the risk of transmission of the coronavirus, said Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) announced Monday. The decision comes amid strong opposition from Pence's campaign.
However, the decision was taken after President Donald Trump and several other members of the White House tested positive just days after the first presidential debate. Besides, a few other rules too have been introduced that were missing during the presidential debate. These include stricter rules for even those who would be present at the debate hall.
New Rules for Harris and Pence
The CPD in a last-minute change said that Harris and Pence will be separated by a plexiglass and will have to maintain 13 feet of social distancing as opposed to the original plan to have them seated 7 feet from each other at their first and only debate in Utah on Wednesday. The changes come as a precautionary measure after Trump and at least a dozen associates and White House staffers contracted the virus just two days after the first presidential debate last week in Cleveland, Ohio.
A fact sheet distributed by the commission said, "Plexiglass will be used as part of the CPD's overall approach to health and safety." At the first presidential debate, Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden's podiums were separated by more than 6 feet but the two candidates did not wear masks during the debate.
Moreover, there will only be a limited number of guests at the debate hall. All guests will have to undergo testing, and anyone who does not wear a mask will be "escorted out," the commission said. Several members of Trump's family, including first lady Melania Trump and his adult children, did not wear masks while sitting in the audience during the first presidential debate.
Safety Everyone's Priority
The announcement comes amid speculation that the commission would introduce new rules to conduct a smooth debate following the highly chaotic first presidential debate where both Trump and Biden attacked and counterattacked each other. However, the new rules focus more on the safety of the participants and attendees. The commission hasn't said anything about new rules to conduct a smooth debate.
That said, the new rules come amid reports that Pence's campaign opposed the decision to install plexiglass. In a statement, Pence's spokeswoman, Katie Miller, said, "If Senator Harris wants to use a fortress around herself, have at it."
The safety protocols are not only restricted to the debates but candidates too have been adopting new safety measures during their campaigns and even debates. For example, Democratic Senate candidate Jaime Harrison of South Carolina put a plexiglass barrier between him and Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham at their debate on Saturday evening.
Biden on the other hand has tested negative for COVID-19 since debating with the president last week, with his last negative test on Sunday. The former vice president said on Monday that he was willing to participate in next week's scheduled debate with Trump as long as health experts say it would be safe. Trump too has expressed his desire to participate in the debate. He has been discharged from the Walter Reed Military Hospital and is back in White House but his quarantine ends on October 15, the day of the debate.