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Mike Pence, Kamala Harris to square off in only vice presidential debate

Preparations take place at Kingsbury Hall on the University of Utah campus in Salt Lake City for Wednesday night's vice presidential debate between Vice President Mike Pence and Democratic vice presidential nominee Sen. Kamala Harris. Photo courtesy University of Utah
Preparations take place at Kingsbury Hall on the University of Utah campus in Salt Lake City for Wednesday night's vice presidential debate between Vice President Mike Pence and Democratic vice presidential nominee Sen. Kamala Harris. Photo courtesy University of Utah

Oct. 7 (UPI) -- Sen. Kamala Harris and Vice President Mike Pence are set to square off in their first and only debate Wednesday night, which will be staged with expanded COVID-19 safety precautions days after President Donald Trump was diagnosed with the coronavirus.

The debate is scheduled for 7 p.m. MDT at Kingsbury Hall at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City and will be broadcast live nationally.

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Early Wednesday, the Commission on Presidential Debates was working to iron out details of safety measures. Trump announced he'd tested positive for the virus a little more than two days after he participated in a debate with Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden.

The commission has said that Harris and Pence will be spaced 12 feet apart for their debate, instead of the 7 feet originally planned.

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Since the spring, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has urged Americans to keep at least 6 feet away from anyone outside their household. The agency updated its guidance Monday to indicate that, under certain conditions, the coronavirus can spread more than 6 feet away in poorly ventilated spaces.

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The two parties were at odds on Tuesday night, however, about whether there should be plexiglass dividers between Harris and Pence to protect them. Biden's campaign requested the dividers, but Pence asked that a divider not be placed on his side of the stage.

"If she wants it, she's more than welcome to surround herself with plexiglass if that makes her feel more comfortable," Marc Short, Pence's chief of staff, told The Washington Post. "It's not needed."

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Pence ultimately agreed to the dividers, according to Frank Fahrenkopf Jr., co-chair of the Commission on Presidential Debates, told The New York Times. The dividers were installed on the debate stage earlier Tuesday.

Pence's position on the issue is representative of the divide between the two camps on the seriousness of the pandemic. Pence and Trump have repeatedly downplayed the threat while Biden and Harris have warned of its dangers and routinely advocated for protective measures. More than a million people worldwide and 210,000 patients in the United States have died of the disease.

Both candidates have been tested daily since at least Friday, when Trump announced he and first lady Melania Trump tested positive. Several Trump aides and associates have also tested positive, including aide Hope Hicks, adviser Stephen Miller, former adviser Kellyanne Conway, press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, Republican Party Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel, campaign manager Bill Stepien and campaign adviser Chris Christie.

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Biden and Harris have tested negative multiple times since the debate in Cleveland a week ago.

First presidential debate takes place in Cleveland

President Donald Trump (L) and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden (R), with Chris Wallace moderating, face off in the first of three scheduled 90-minute presidential debates in Cleveland on Tuesday. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo

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