By ZEKE MILLER
WASHINGTON (AP) — The second debate between President Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden will take place virtually amid the fallout from the president’s diagnosis of COVID-19, the debate commission announced Thursday.
The nonpartisan Commission on Presidential Debates cited a need “to protect the health and safety of all involved with the second presidential debate.” The candidates will “participate from separate remote locations” while the participants and moderator remain in Miami, it said.
The announcement comes a week before Biden and Trump were scheduled to face off in Miami.
Trump was diagnosed with the coronavirus a week ago and but in a Tuesday tweet said he looked forward to debating Biden on stage in Miami, “It will be great!” he tweeted.
Biden, for his part, said he and Trump “shouldn’t have a debate” as long as the president remains COVID positive.
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.”
Trump fell ill with the virus last Thursday, just 48 hours after debating Biden in person for the first time in Cleveland. While the two candidates remained a dozen feet apart during the debate, Trump’s infection sparked health concerns for Biden and sent him to undergo multiple COVID-19 tests before returning to the campaign trail.
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 as many as — and should isolate for at least — 10 days.
There was no immediate reaction from either campaign to the news of the new format, which came as the debate commission was already considering changes to the structure of the debate after a chaotic first meeting between the two candidates.
It’s not the first debate in which the candidates are not in the same room. In 1960, the third presidential debate between Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy was broadcast with the two candidates on opposite coasts.
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