The nonpartisan Commission on Presidential Debates said Thursday a second debate between Republican Donald Trump and Democratic rival Joe Biden would take place virtually amid the fallout from Trump’s diagnosis of COVID-19, a change denounced by the incumbent.
“I’m not going to do a virtual debate,” Trump said in a interview with Fox Business.
The commission said the candidates were to “participate from separate remote locations” on Oct. 15 “in order to protect the health and safety of all involved with the second presidential debate.”
The moderator would remain in Miami as well as the participants, as the second debate is scheduled be conducted in the town hall format, in which some selected voters ask the nominees questions.
Trump was diagnosed with the coronavirus a week ago and said in a tweet earlier this week that he looked forward to debating Biden on stage in Miami, saying, “it will be great!”
Biden told reporters in Pennsylvania that he was “looking forward to being able to debate him” but said, “we’re going to have to follow very strict guidelines.”
Biden had said earlier he and Trump “shouldn’t have a debate” as long as the president remains COVID-19 positive.
After a rash of positive tests emanating from the White House and the administration’s unwillingness to reveal specifics of the timeline of Trump’s diagnosis, the Biden camp has wondered if the president was displaying symptoms at the first debate.
Biden and running mate Kamala Harris, who debated Vice-President Mike Pence on Wednesday night, have undergone multiple COVID-19 tests since.
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Trump was still contagious with the virus when he was discharged from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on Monday, but his doctors have not provided any detailed update on his status. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, those with mild to moderate symptoms of COVID-19 can be contagious for up to 10 days and should isolate accordingly.
There is a third presidential debate scheduled for Oct. 22 in Nashville.