No Masks or Plexiglass Barriers: How the 2nd Prez Debate Went Down

Biden emerged wearing a mask but later took it off, while President Trump did not have a mask.

3 min read
Donald Trump and Joe Biden.

Just a few hours before the final face-off between US President Donald Trump and Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden in the final debate in Nashville, on Thursday, 22 October, the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) announced to remove the plexiglass barrier.

The barriers were removed after the CPD’s medical adviser learned that Biden and Trump each tested negative for the coronavirus on Thursday, and after consultation with Dr Anthony Fauci.

At the beginning of the debate, Biden emerged wearing a mask but later took it off, while President Trump did not have a mask.

During the first presidential debate on 29 September, Trump and Biden were made to stand 12-feet away from one another, and Trump tested COVID-19 positive just 48 hours after the debate with Biden.

After ten days, the White House announced that Trump had tested negative and hasn’t shown any symptoms.

What Happened During the Debate?

Both candidates did not shake hands because of precautions taken for the coronavirus. The debate took place without plexiglass barriers between Trump and Biden.

The CPD had ensured that both candidates have two uninterrupted minutes to deliver opening answers on six debate topics, ranging from COVID-19 to racism and climate change.

One member from each of the Trump and Biden campaigns monitored the person in-charge of controlling the mute button backstage, the debate commission chair Frank Fahrenkopf said.

Under a new rule, their microphones had a provision to be muted at times to allow the opponent to speak uninterrupted for the designated time allotted, although the moderator didn’t have to resort to it.

The mute button was one of the changes implemented by the debate commission. The change was introduced after the chaos of the first presidential debate, where Trump spoke beyond his time, and eating into Biden’s designated two minutes.

Apart from removing plexiglass barrier, the organisers said that any member from audience who refuses to wear a mask will be also be removed, AP reported.

Though, many members of the Trump family removed their masks as soon as they sat down for the debate.

Earlier the debate commission had said that all the safety measures will help in reducing the risk of infection. The debate commissioner told the AP that the Trump campaign opposed the use of plexiglass, just as it did ahead of the vice presidential debate earlier this month.

This time, there was a smaller audience due to the virus. The debate commission said that only 200 people were inside the arena at the Belmont University.

The audience included guests from the campaigns and the debate commission, students, the commission's production team, security, and health and safety personnel.

People in the audience were made to sit in accordance with social distancing recommendations; several empty seats separate each person, AP reported.

Each member from the audience and support staff were required to undergo coronavirus testing onsite within three days of the event. They wore coloured wrist bands as evidence of their negative tests, AP reported.

The second presidential debate was originally planned for 15 October but was cancelled after President Trump refused to attend the virtual debate to guard against the spread of COVID-19.

The CPD, in a statement, had said, "It is now apparent there will be no debate on 15 October, and the CPD will turn its attention to preparations for the final presidential debate scheduled for 22 October."

(With inputs from AP and The New York Times)

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