The Next Democratic Debate Will Not Have A Live Audience Amid Coronavirus Concerns

The first debate between just Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders will forgo a studio audience.

Mike Bloomberg, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar at the Democratic debate in Nevada.
Ethan Miller / Getty Images

The first debate between just Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders will forgo a studio audience.

The next Democratic debate, which is set to take place in Phoenix, Arizona, on Sunday, will forgo a live audience. CNN’s Wolf Blitzer announced that the event will no longer include a crowd of live spectators because of a request from both Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders’ campaigns, according to Deadline. The announcement comes as fears about the spread of coronavirus continue to escalate.

Originally, both candidates were supposed to take questions from the audience as part of the debate. The debate is scheduled just days before the Arizona primary, as well as additional contests in Ohio, Florida, and Illinois.

Jake Tapper, Dana Bash, and Univision’s Jorge Ramos are still slated to moderate the debate. CNN and Univision are co-hosting the debate, which is also sanctioned by the Democratic National Committee and CHC Bold, the political action committee of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. The debate will still take place at the Arizona Federal Theatre.

The announcement that the next debate will be without an audience comes just hours after both Sanders and Biden announced that they would be canceling their rallies scheduled for Tuesday night because of fears about spreading coronavirus, according to NBC News.

“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,” said Sanders’ communications director Mike Casca in a statement.

Sanders and Biden were both slated to have rallies in Ohio, but following warnings from the governor to avoid indoor events, both presidential contenders reconsidered.

“We will continue to consult with public health officials and public health guidance and make announcements about future events in the coming days. Vice President Biden thanks all of his supporters who wanted to be with us,” Biden’s deputy campaign manager Kate Bedingfield said in a statement.

These events mark the first campaign stops that have been canceled in response to the coronavirus outbreak.

Outside the world of politics, response to the coronavirus has led shows like Wheel of Fortune, Jeopardy! and Dr. Phil to announce that they will no longer be taping in front of live audiences. That announcement emphasized that the health of the audience and crew members was the most important factor in the production company’s decision. The shows were reportedly particularly concerned about their audiences, which tend to skew older, and are therefore more likely to die from the disease if they become infected.