Future of presidential debates unclear after Trump tests positive for COVID-19

Brittany Shepherd
·National Politics Reporter
·2 mins read

WILMINGTON, Del. — Now that President Trump has the coronavirus, will there be any more debates this year?

Trump and first lady Melania Trump tested positive for COVID-19 early Friday morning. The president’s close confidante Hope Hicks had also tested positive. Hicks had been traveling with the president over the last week and was seen maskless on several occasions, including at Tuesday night’s presidential debate.

U.S. President Donald Trump (R) and former Vice President Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden participate in the first presidential debate at the Health Education Campus of Case Western Reserve University on September 29, 2020 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Olivier Douliery-Pool/Getty Images)
President Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden at the first presidential debate, on Tuesday in Cleveland. (Olivier Douliery-Pool/Getty Images)

Though Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden kept their distance onstage, the former vice president still spent nearly two hours onstage with Trump while neither man was wearing a mask.

Biden and his wife, Jill, underwent COVID-19 testing Friday morning, and both received negative results. Due to the virus’s incubation period, the pair will likely be tested on a regular basis to ensure they are illness-free.

Biden continued his scheduled travel to Michigan that afternoon.

There is some speculation that Sen. Kamala Harris and Vice President Mike Pence’s upcoming debate on Oct. 7 may be canceled. Both tested negative for the coronavirus Friday morning, though Pence’s staffers may be in jeopardy if they were in contact with any of the president’s aides.

Frank Fahrenkopf, the co-chairman of the Commission on Presidential Debates, declined to comment Friday on whether the upcoming debates would be held on schedule. “No comment at this time!” he said in an email.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends a 10-day isolation period for anyone who tests positive for COVID-19 and exhibits symptoms, meaning Trump will likely be forced off the campaign trail until at least Oct. 12. But that wouldn’t necessarily mean he would need to skip his next debate with Biden, which is scheduled for Oct. 15.

According to pool reports on Tuesday, all of Trump’s family members — including the first lady, who walked in wearing a mask — sat in the Ohio debate venue maskless, despite rules requiring otherwise.

(From top) Eric Trump, son of the US President, daughter and Senior Advisor to the US President Ivanka Trump, US First Lady Melania Trump, daughter of the US President Tiffany Trump and Donald Trump Jr., son of the US President, are seen ahead of the first presidential debate at the Case Western Reserve University and Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio on September 29, 2020. (Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images)
From top: Eric Trump, Ivanka Trump, Melania Trump, Tiffany Trump and Donald Trump Jr. ahead of the presidential debate on Tuesday. (Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images)

Even before his diagnosis, Trump was at odds with the debate commission over possible rule changes. On a conference call with reporters Thursday, Trump senior adviser Jason Miller called commission members “permanent swamp monsters.”

Trump himself suggested via Twitter that he would not accept any rule changes from the debate commission.

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