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The second presidential debate between President Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden will take place virtually with both candidates in separate locations, the Commission on Presidential Debates announced on Thursday.
The commission announced the new form after Trump tested positive for the coronavirus last week. Trump responded to the news minutes later asserting he would not “do a virtual debate.”
“The second presidential debate will take the form of a town meeting, in which the candidates would participate from separate remote locations,” the commission said in a statement, according to CNN. “The town meeting participants and the moderator, Steve Scully, Senior Executive Producer & Political Editor, C-SPAN Networks, will be located at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County in Miami, Florida. The White House Pool will provide coverage of the second presidential debate.”
Trump responded to the news on Fox Business minutes after the announcement, saying, “I’m not gonna do a virtual debate.”
“I’m not gonna do a virtual debate,” Trump said on Fox Business just now.
— Maggie Haberman (@maggieNYT) October 8, 2020
A team of doctors, led by White House physician Dr. Sean Conley, cleared Trump for release on Monday. The president is at the White House recovering from COVID-19 after a stint at Walter Reed Medical Center.
“Over the past 24 hours, the president has continued to improve. He’s met or exceeded all standard hospital discharge criteria,” Conley said on Monday before Trump returned to the White House later that evening. “He’ll receive another dose of Remdesivir here today, and then we plan to get him home. It’s been more than 72 hours since his last fever — oxygen levels, including ambulatory saturations and his … breathing are all normal. Though he may not entirely be out of the woods yet, the team and I agree that all our evaluations, and most importantly his clinical status, support the president’s safe return home, where he’ll be surrounded by world-class medical care 24/7.”
Trump and first lady Melania tested positive for the coronavirus on Oct. 2. The diagnosis raised questions over whether Trump, at 74 years old and overweight, would be well enough by Oct. 15 to debate Biden, who is 77. Biden said that if Trump still had the coronavirus at the time of the second debate, it should be canceled.
“Well, I think if he still has COVID, we shouldn’t have a debate,” Biden told reporters on Wednesday. “I think we’re gonna have to follow very strict guidelines. Too many people have been infected and it’s a very serious problem.”
“And so I’ll be guided by the guidelines of the Cleveland Clinic, and what the docs say is the right thing to do — if and when he shows up for debate,” he added.
High-ranking Democrats, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, have urged Biden not to debate Trump at all. Pelosi said a debate with the president would be an “exercise in skullduggery.” Critics have said that such suggestions are more attempts by the Biden campaign to keep the former vice president out of the spotlight and a disservice to voters.