Wednesday night’s vice presidential debate will put more than 12 feet of distance plus two layers of plexiglass between incumbent Mike Pence and challenger Kamala Harris, as confirmed by first photos of the stage set-up.
The added precautionary measures for the VP debate — which starts at 9/8c, held at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City — come in the wake of President Donald Trump himself as well as many, many people from his inner circle testing positive for the coronavirus over the past week or so. (Trump was discharged from the Walter Reed Medical Center on Monday, after checking in on Saturday for treatment and observation.) Pence himself has thus far tested negative, with his camp maintaining that he has not been a “close contact” of any of the many infected.
The Commission on Presidential Debates has said that the safety protocols for Wednesday night’s VP debate include on-site COVID-19 testing and the use of masks; those who do not wear a mask will be escorted out (whereas at the first presidential debate, certain attendees who refused to wear a mask were allowed to stay).
At the first presidential debate, held on Sept. 29, President Trump and Democratic candidate Joe Biden were situated six-pus feet apart, standing at podiums and wearing no masks.
Since then, Trump campaign aide Hope Hicks’ positive coronavirus diagnosis was reported on Oct. 1, by Bloomberg News. The following morning, President Trump announced his and First Lady Melania Trump’s positive test results, though there is some question about when the two first learned about their diagnoses. Sen. Mike Lee, Sen. Thom Tillis, Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien, former Trump advisor Kellyanne Conway, former New Jersey governor Chris Christie and Notre Dame University president Rev. John I. Jenkins also tested positive for COVID-19, after visiting the White House on Sept. 26 for the nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court. (Barrett herself reportedly contracted the coronavirus over the summer, but recovered.)
On Oct. 5, White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany tested positive for COVID-19, as did White House communications aides Chad Gilmartin (McEnany’s cousin-in-law via husband/MLB pitcher Sean Gilmartin) and Karoline Leavitt.
Additionally, Nicolas Luna (President Trump’s body man), RNC chairwoman Ronna McDaniel, two journalists who cover/work at the White House, and at least one White House staffer who sits in the “lower press” area of the West Wing all have tested positive in the past week.
The photo above was shared on Twitter by NBC News White House correspondent Geoff Bennett.