WASHINGTON — The two leading Democratic presidential candidates — former Vice President Joe Biden and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders — both scrapped plans for election-night rallies in Ohio on Tuesday due to concerns about the coronavirus outbreak.
Sanders was first to announce the decision on Tuesday afternoon in a statement from his communications director, Mike Casca.
“Out of concern for public health and safety, we are canceling tonight’s rally in Cleveland. We are heeding the public warnings from Ohio state officials, who have communicated concern about holding large, indoor events during the coronavirus outbreak,” Casca said. “Sen. Sanders would like to express his regret to the thousands of Ohioans who had planned to attend the event tonight.”
Casca said future Sanders campaign events “will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.”
Biden’s deputy campaign manager and communications director, Kate Bedingfield, made a similar announcement shortly afterward.
“In accordance with guidance from public officials and out of an abundance of caution, our rally in Cleveland, Ohio, tonight is canceled. We will continue to consult with public health officials and public health guidance and make announcements about future events in the coming days,” Bedingfield said, adding, “Vice President Biden thanks all of his supporters who wanted to be with us in Cleveland this evening. Additional details on where the Vice President will address the press tonight are forthcoming.”
Voters are headed to the polls today in six states: Idaho, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota and Washington. After Biden’s strong showing on Super Tuesday on March 3, the Democratic presidential primary has become essentially a race between him and Sanders.
Recent polls show Biden with a wide lead over Sanders in Michigan, which has emerged as a crucial battleground in the contest between the two men. Both Biden and Sanders made campaign stops in Michigan on Tuesday morning. Voters are due to head to the polls in Ohio on March 17.
Sanders held a coronavirus roundtable in Detroit on Monday in which he appeared alongside local officials and said the outbreak shows the need for universal health care and the paid sick leave policies he has made a cornerstone of his campaign.
“The United States remains the only major country on earth not to guarantee paid sick leave and paid family leave. Now that is absurd in a general sense, but it’s particularly dangerous given the moment we are at right now,” Sanders said at the event.
On Tuesday afternoon, the Ohio Department of Health announced it was investigating 15 potential coronavirus cases in the state. According to Johns Hopkins University, there are currently 808 confirmed cases of the virus in the United States.
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