The University of Michigan pulled out of hosting an October presidential debate on Tuesday citing concerns about large-scale gatherings during the pandemic as the infection toll related to Trump’s Saturday rally in Tulsa continues to climb.
TULSA, OKLAHOMA – JUNE 20: U.S. President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally at the BOK … [+]
University of Michigan President Mark Schlissel asked for the institution to be released from its agreement with the Commission on Presidential Debates to host the October 15 debate—one of three scheduled presidential debates between Trump and Joe Biden—in a Tuesday statement.
Schlissel cited fears of compromising tentative plans for a fall return to campus with a heightened infection threat from the influx of debate-related media, campaign officials and supporters, adding: “In consideration of the public health guidelines in our state as well as advice from our own experts—we feel it is not feasible for us to safely host the presidential debate as planned.’’
The debate will instead take place in Miami’s Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts on the same day, according to the presidential debate commission.
On Tuesday, the Trump campaign said that two staffers who attended the Tulsa rally on Saturday tested positive for Covid-19, bringing the total of coronavirus-infected team members involved in the rally up to eight.
Ahead of the rally, Tulsa officials warned that Trump’s first campaign event in three months would likely worsen a recent spike in Oklahoma infections and many requested that Trump cancel the event or at least move it outdoors.
Last week, the Trump campaign began lobbying for the addition of a fourth debate and asking for the events to be pushed forward while arguing that the two campaigns should have sway over moderators—instead of the nonpartisan debate commission.
“It’s the perfect storm of potential over-the-top disease transmission,” said executive director of the Tulsa health department Bruce Dart ahead of the Tulsa rally. “It’s a perfect storm that we can’t afford to have.”
As states across the country continue to move through the phases of reopening, Florida, Texas, Arizona and other locations across the South and West have seen a dramatic rise in cases over the past couple of weeks. Though officials in some states are pointing to increased testing as the impetus for new spikes, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis pointed out that, at least for Florida, the share of people testing positive is accelerating faster than the increase in testing. On the heels of his rally in Tulsa, for which attendance was much lower than anticipated, Trump will speak in Arizona later today. Due to the recent spike in cases, Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego has expressed concern about the president’s visit.