Without pomp and with little public: the presidential debate in the US, in the era of the coronavirus

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Historically, televised duels between presidential candidates were massive events. This year there will be chinstraps, distance and alcohol gel.

The public and the splendor are in the past. What’s new are chinstraps and diagnostic tests.

Presidential debates are typically some of the most exciting nights of election season in United States, and draw a crowd that includes thousands of staff members, media, and guests.

But this year, as has happened with almost everything else, things are very, very different, with a long list of precautions for the coronavirus pandemic. The first televised face-to-face between President Donald Trump and his Democratic rival Joe Biden will be surrounded by measures to confront Covid.

Instead of the usual auditorium, the debate is hosted by the Cleveland Clinic and Case Western Reserve University in the 2,500-square-meter atrium of the Sheila and Eric Samson Pavilion, on the clinic’s Health Education campus. Notre Dame, the original host of the debate, withdrew its proposal due to the pandemic.

The atrium, with its skylight in the ceiling, was adapted for a discussion room with a stage and a red carpet. Although the seats are placed side by side, it was arranged with row spacing and signs were posted on some chairs reading: “Thank you for not sitting here in compliance with social distancing.”

That leaves room for about 100 people, all of whom underwent diagnostic tests and they were instructed to wear a chinstrap. They were placed antibacterial programs and towels in each of the seats.

However, Trump and Biden will not have to wear masks.

Each candidate’s campaign teams received 20 tickets each to distribute among their guests, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows said. Among Trump’s guests are his wife, Melania, and their four adult children.

Beyond those you watch on television, presidential debates typically attract thousands of people, including guests, sponsors, donors, and national and international press, giving it a festival feel. There is usually a media registration center and tents with food, and even a beer garden.

And after the debate, sympathizers of the candidates burst into the press center and create a room in which they analyze what happened in the debate.

Despite the fact that there is a press registration center in a nearby event hall in Cleveland, there was not a huge expectation in the air Tuesday afternoon, with only a few reporters present. And only those who wore a gray bracelet were allowed access, indicative that they had tested negative al virus.

Outside there were no large crowds, only security agents who blocked the streets surrounding the place prior to the arrival of the candidates, and some helicopters that flew over the area.

A man was seen driving near the scene in a pickup truck adorned with a Trump papier-mâché head inside a box, pro-Biden flags and banners reading: “203,000 dead” from Covid-19, and “Trump failed us. “.

A woman dressed as a doctor was also seen carrying a wheelbarrow filled with plastic skeletons. Metaphor for these times.

By Jill Colvin and Pablo Martínez Minsivais, The Associated Press

CB​

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