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Notre Dame backs out of hosting first presidential debate, citing coronavirus concerns

The University of Notre Dame has withdrawn from hosting the first presidential debate between Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden and President Donald Trump slated for late September, saying concerns over COVID-19 led to the decision.

What are the details?

Notre Dame President Rev. John Jenkins made the announcement Monday, saying the “difficult” decision to back out of hosting the debate was made “because the necessary health precautions would have greatly diminished the educational value of hosting the debate on our campus.”

The Indiana school reported in a news release that Father Jenkins explained in a letter to the Notre Dame community earlier in the day that “the inevitable reduction in student attendance in the debate hall, volunteer opportunities and ancillary educational events undermined the primary benefit of hosting — to provide our students with a meaningful opportunity to engage in the American political process.”

He added, “I am grateful to the many members of the University community who have devoted countless hours planning this event, and to the Commission on Presidential Debates leadership for their professionalism and understanding. But in the end, the constraints the coronavirus pandemic put on the event — as understandable and necessary as they are — have led us to withdraw.”

The Commission on Presidential Debates confirmed Notre Dame’s withdrawal from hosting and announced in a statement that the first debate will still be held Sept. 29, and the event will now be co-hosted by Case Western University and Cleveland Clinic at the Health Education Campus in Cleveland. The debate will be held in Samson Pavilion, a 477,000-square-foot facility built in 2019.

The Hill reported that Cleveland Clinic CEO and President Tom Mihaljevic and Case Western President Barbara Snyder released a joint statement saying, “This pandemic has highlighted the critical importance of health care and scientific discovery in unprecedented ways. To have the presidential candidates discuss these issues on our innovative learning space represents a tremendous opportunity for both institutions — and our entire region.”

Anything else?

The second debate between Trump and Biden is scheduled for Oct. 15 at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts in Miami, and the third and final debate is slated for Oct. 22, to be hosted by Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee. The general election is Nov. 3.

According to Reuters, Notre Dame is the second debate site to back out of hosting due to the coronavirus concerns, noting that last month, the University of Michigan withdrew from providing the venue for the second debate.

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