First Presidential Debate Moved to Cleveland Amid Pandemic Concerns

July 28, 2020 by Dan McCue

WASHINGTON – The first presidential debate between President Donald Trump and former VIce President Joe Biden, has been moved to the Health Education Campus Case Western Reserve University and the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, the organizers announced.

The Commission on Presidential Debates, the nonprofit and nonpartisan entity that has overseen the general election debates for decades, said the new site was chosen after the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind., withdrew from hosting the event in light of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

In a statement, Notre Dame President, the Rev. John Jenkins said the “inevitable reduction in student attendance in the debate hall, volunteer opportunities and ancillary educational events undermined the primary benefit of hosting — to provide our students with a meaningful opportunity to engage in the American political process.”

“In the end, the constraints the coronavirus pandemic put on the event — as understandable and necessary as they are — have led us to withdraw,” Jenkins said.

Case Western said that its partnership with the Cleveland Clinic, which the Commission on Presidential Debates has previously tapped to serve as a “health security adviser,” made hosting a debate more feasible.

“We are honored to host this presidential debate at our shared Health Education Campus,” Cleveland Clinic CEO and President Tom Mihaljevic, M.D., and Case Western Reserve University President Barbara R. Snyder said in a joint statement. “This pandemic has highlighted the critical importance of health care and scientific discovery in unprecedented ways. To have the presidential candidates discuss these issues in our innovative learning space represents a tremendous opportunity for both institutions – and our entire region.”

The hospital will establish risk-mitigation procedures within Samson Pavilion, including audience size, distance among seats, and disinfectant measures. The precise nature of those plans — including whether an audience will be present — will depend on the status of the pandemic as the event draws closer.

The current schedule of presidential and vice presidential debates now shapes up this way:

First presidential debate:

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Case Western Reserve University and Cleveland Clinic, Cleveland, Ohio

Vice presidential debate:

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

The University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah

Second presidential debate:

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, Miami, Fla.

Third presidential debate:

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Belmont University, Nashville, Tenn.

All debates will be 90 minutes in length, will run from 9:00 – 10:30 pm Eastern Time without commercial breaks, and be broadcast by the White House pool networks.

Case Western Reserve University was the site of the vice presidential debate between Dick Cheney and John Edwards in 2004.

This is the second of the three presidential debates to be moved due to the pandemic. The second debate, which is scheduled for Oct. 15, will now be held in Miami, after the University of Michigan dropped out last month.

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