The Commission on Presidential Debates has approved plans for plexiglass to be used to separate Vice President Mike Pence, California Sen. Kamala Harris and the moderator during Wednesday’s vice presidential debate.
“If Sen. Harris wants to use a fortress around herself, have at it,” Pence spokeswoman Katie Miller said, according to Politico.
The decision comes following negotiations over the terms of the debate between Pence’s and Harris’ teams following news Friday that President Donald Trump had contracted COVID-19.
The candidates were already going to be placed 13 feet apart, but the plexiglass barrier was still up for discussion on Monday night.
Top Pence advisers said late Monday night that they did not support plexiglass barriers being used in the debate, The Washington Post reported.
Commission Co-Chairman Frank Fahrenkopf Jr. said the Trump team did not object to the decision but “they didn’t want the vice president surrounded by plexiglass.”
“They don’t want to have him in what looks like a box,” Fahrenkopf said.
Several people on Trump’s team did not wear masks during the presidential debate last week, and some senior members of his administration have announced positive test results.
At least 11 people involved in the setup and staging of the debate also tested positive for the virus.
Some public health officials have questioned the safety of the vice presidential debate, arguing Pence should be in a 14-day quarantine because he has interacted with Trump.
“The vice-presidential debate is one that if you’re following CDC guidelines, that debate should be virtual,” Rochelle Walensky, chief of infectious diseases at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School professor, told The Post.
“It’s not necessarily how many feet away [Pence] is from Kamala Harris. The fact is, he’s going to drive somewhere, fly somewhere. There’s a whole cascade of people that he could be exposing for him to show up on that stage.”
Republican operative and NeverTrumper Doug Heye said Monday that “moving forward” with the debate “is irresponsible.”
Given what’s happening with positive testing in the West Wing and how positive tests can lag, Wednesday’s Vice-Presidential debate should be postponed until we know it can be safely held. Moving forward is irresponsible.
— Doug Heye (@DougHeye) October 5, 2020
However, Pence aides said the vice president doesn’t need to quarantine because he hasn’t been close to Trump.
Both Harris’ and Pence’s teams have suggested they don’t want to be portrayed as afraid to show up for the debate as a sign of weakness.
Fahrenkopf said the debate commission would continue to trust the presidential candidates’ medical teams in the upcoming debates.
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