Future Presidential Debates In Doubt After Trump Comes Down With COVID-19

Trump's diagnosis illustrates the risks of in-person campaigning during a pandemic.

The revelation that President Donald Trump has tested positive for COVID-19 has cast a cloud of uncertainty over the final month of the presidential campaign, beginning with the remaining three presidential and vice presidential debates.

Trump announced early Friday morning that he and Melania Trump, the first lady, tested positive for the disease, which is caused by the novel coronavirus sweeping the globe. Both Trump and his wife are experiencing mild symptoms of COVID-19, which attacks the respiratory system.

Trump has two more scheduled debates with former Vice President Joe Biden, the Democratic presidential nominee, before the Nov. 3 election: one in Miami on Oct. 15 and another in Nashville on Oct. 22. Vice President Mike Pence, who has tested negative for COVID-19, is also due to face off with Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), the Democratic vice presidential nominee, this coming Wednesday in Salt Lake City.

Former Vice President Joe Biden, left, and President Donald Trump participated in their first in-person debate on Tuesday. Given Trump's illness, it may also be their last joint appearance.
Former Vice President Joe Biden, left, and President Donald Trump participated in their first in-person debate on Tuesday. Given Trump's illness, it may also be their last joint appearance.
JIM WATSON/Getty Images

The Biden campaign revealed early Friday afternoon that Biden had tested negative for COVID-19.

Biden on Friday delivered an economic policy-focused speech in the parking lot of a union hall in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Biden subsequently told a Grand Rapids NBC affiliate that he wanted the opportunity to debate Trump again before the election.

“I hope for two reasons there are more debates: One, it means the president is ... healthy; he’s able to debate,” he said. “And secondly, I think it’s important that we make our case as to why we should be elected the next president of the United States.”

Earlier on Friday, Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien issued a statement announcing that all currently scheduled campaign events are either being temporarily postponed or moved to a virtual setting. Pence, by contrast, will be resuming his normal campaign schedule.

“All other campaign events will be considered on a case-by-case basis and we will make any relevant announcements in the days ahead,” Stepien said.

The vice presidential debate will continue as scheduled, the presidential debate commission told The Associated Press.

Biden appeared alongside Trump onstage in Cleveland on Tuesday night for their first in-person debate. The joint appearance was a chaotic and bitter affair primarily due to Trump’s constant interruptions of both Biden and the debate moderator, Chris Wallace of Fox News.

Trump has consistently downplayed the severity of COVID-19 and the ease with which it spreads, holding large political rallies, even as Biden has kept a much more scaled-back campaign schedule out of public health concerns.

Trump continued to speak dismissively about the virus’s spread on Tuesday night, insisting that his rallies had not produced an uptick in COVID-19 cases and disputing the science behind mask-wearing as a form of disease prevention. The president’s family members declined to wear masks while sitting in the live debate audience in contravention of official debate rules.

On Thursday, prior to Trump’s positive test results, he had already announced that he planned to quarantine after it emerged that Hope Hicks, a top Trump aide, had tested positive for the disease. The White House is now scrambling to ensure that the virus has not spread more widely among White House personnel and the traveling press corps, including S.V. Daté, HuffPost’s White House correspondent, who was aboard Air Force One with the president for pool duty on Wednesday.

A HuffPost Guide To Coronavirus

Everyone deserves accurate information about COVID-19. Support journalism without a paywall — and keep it free for everyone — by becoming a HuffPost member today.

Popular in the Community