Candidates to Be Separated by Plexiglass Shield at VP Debate

SACRAMENTO, Calif./WASHINGTON (AP/The Washington Post) -
The stage is set with glass between seats ahead of the vice presidential debate at the University of Utah, Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2020, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

Sen. Kamala Harris and Vice President Mike Pence will be separated by a see-through barrier to reduce the risk of coronavirus transmission at Wednesday’s vice presidential debate.

The Democratic campaign requested the plexiglass shield between the candidates, according to a campaign aide who was unauthorized to discuss the details publicly and who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.

The debate in Salt Lake City will come less than a week after President Donald Trump tested positive for the virus. It is the only planned debate between the two vice presidential contenders and will take on heightened attention following the president’s diagnosis.

The two will be seated more than 12 feet apart from each other during the matchup, according to a person familiar with the debate setup who was also unauthorized to publicly discuss the details. Trump and Joe Biden debated last Tuesday while standing at podiums.

Pence will appear despite recent exposure to people who have tested positive for the virus, though he has not tested positive. He attended a Rose Garden ceremony Sept. 26 for Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett alongside a handful of people who have now tested positive for the virus, including Trump.

In a letter sent by Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, to Marc Short, Pence’s chief of staff, Redfield said he had a “detailed discussion” with Pence’s physician about the vice president’s possible exposure to “persons with COVID-19.” Based on the consultation with Pence’s physician, Dr. Jesse Schonau, and Schonau’s “investigation and the serial negative testing results of the Vice President, the CDC concludes from a public health standpoint, it is safe for the Vice President to participate in the upcoming Vice-Presidential debate,” Redfield wrote.

Based on the description of Pence’s movements provided by the vice president’s doctor, the CDC director concluded that agency guidance calls for 14 days of isolation if there is “close contact” with someone who is infected with the novel coronavirus, which causes the illness covid-19. But Redfield said Pence was not a “close contact” of anyone who was infected.

The Vice President traveled to Utah on Monday. He is taking a lead role in the reelection campaign while Trump is recovering and unable to hold rallies or other campaign events.

Harris, meanwhile, has been in Utah since Saturday to prepare for the debate. She last reported a negative test on Friday and campaigned in Las Vegas later that day.

The president’s diagnosis puts a new spotlight on the vice presidential debate and on the continued presence of the virus, a key campaign message for Biden and Harris.

Susan Page of USA Today will moderate the debate.