President Trump’s bout with COVID-19 is casting uncertainty over the second presidential debate, even as both campaigns signal a willingness to participate in next week’s event.
The president intends to participate in person at the debate in Miami, his campaign said Tuesday. Democratic nominee Joe Biden told reporters a day earlier that he would defer to medical experts on whether it would be safe to hold the event but appeared willing to take part if they signed off.
As the debate commission mulls how to move forward given all the unknowns, health experts suggested it’s not worth the risk for the two candidates, both in their 70s, to debate in person when there are alternatives available.
“With technology the way it is right now, why bother? You don’t actually need to do a debate with two people standing together physically in a room,” said Jill Roberts, an epidemiologist at the University of South Florida.
“And in that case, we wouldn’t have to worry about whether one person was positive or who was at risk,” she said.
The town hall forum for the debate, slated for the Arsht Center for the Performing Arts in Miami, means voters will be in the auditorium with the candidates and moderator. The setting creates an added layer of risk, as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued guidance Monday stating the coronavirus can spread through “airborne transmission” to people who are more than 6 feet away in indoor, poorly ventilated spaces.
Both candidates this week signaled a readiness to attend and participate in person, even though both are more than 70 years old, putting them at higher risk for having serious complications from COVID-19.
“I am looking forward to the debate on the evening of Thursday, October 15th in Miami. It will be great!” the president tweeted Tuesday.
Biden has been on the campaign trail in recent days and has tested negative for the virus multiple times after sharing the stage with Trump in Cleveland for the first debate on Sept. 29. On Monday, the day Trump was discharged from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, Biden said he would defer to health experts on the second debate.
Video: MEDICAL MONDAY: Weighing In On President Trump’s COVID-19 Diagnosis (CBS SF Bay Area)
“I’m not an expert on it, but I think we should be very cautious, as I’ve thought all along,” he told reporters. “And I’m going to continue to listen to the scientists. But I’m looking forward to having a town hall meeting if that occurs.”
The biggest wild card is Trump’s health, both in terms of whether he will be well enough to debate in person and whether he will be far enough along in his recovery to avoid endangering others in the building.
Trump said he first tested positive on Thursday after returning