The first presidential debate has been moved to Cleveland amid concerns about the coronavirus pandemic, organizers announced.
The Commission on Presidential Debates, the nonprofit that has conducted the general election debates for decades, announced on Monday that Case Western Reserve University and Cleveland Clinic will co-host the first presidential debate on Sept. 29 between President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden.
The debate will be held on the Health Education Campus, a joint project between Case Western and the Cleveland Clinic. The University of Notre Dame, in South Bend, Ind., announced that it was pulling out from its hosting responsibilities amid the pandemic.
"The inevitable reduction in student attendance in the debate hall, volunteer opportunities and ancillary educational events undermined the primary benefit of hosting — to provide our students with a meaningful opportunity to engage in the American political process," Notre Dame's president, the Rev. John Jenkins, said in a statement, praising the professionalism of the CPD. "But in the end, the constraints the coronavirus pandemic put on the event — as understandable and necessary as they are — have led us to withdraw.”
Case Western said that its partnership with the Cleveland Clinic, which the CPD has previously tapped to serve as a "health security adviser," made hosting a debate more feasible.
The Ohio-based university said that it will establish "risk-mitigation procedures" for the debate, such as limiting crowd sizes and distancing seats. The university said in a press release that more details will be determined — including if there's an audience at all — will be determined closer to the event, depending "on the status of the pandemic."
This is the second of the three presidential debates to be moved due to the pandemic. The second debate, which is scheduled for Oct. 15, will now be held in Miami, after the University of Michigan dropped out last month.
The third debate is scheduled for Oct. 22 at Belmont University, in Nashville, Tenn.
Case Western previously hosted the vice presidential debate in 2004 between then-Vice President Dick Cheney and then-Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.).
Trump and Biden will likely be the only two participants in the first debate, which is open to candidates to candidates on the ballot in enough states to constitute an Electoral College majority who are polling at 15 percent or greater.