Cleveland will now be the host city of the first debate between President Donald Trump and presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden.
The University of Notre Dame in Indiana was supposed to be the host of the event, but they withdrew recently because of concerns about the coronavirus.
The September 29 event will be held at the Health Education Campus in Cleveland, the Commission on Presidential Debates announced on Monday. It will be co-hosted by the Cleveland Clinic and Case Western Reserve University.
Rev. John Jenkins, the University of Notre Dame’s president, said he conferred with public health officials and ultimately made “this difficult decision because the necessary health precautions would have greatly diminished the educational value of hosting the debate on our campus.”
In a statement, Jenkins said:
“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. 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.”
Case Western Reserve University said it was more feasible for them to host the event because of their partnership with the Cleveland Clinic. The CDC had previously selected the Cleveland Clinic as a “health security adviser.”
Case Western said it plans to establish “risk-mitigation procedures” for the presidential debate. This includes limiting the capacity of the event and spreading seats apart to meet social-distancing guidelines.
More details about the event are still to be determined, the university announced in a press release. That includes whether there will be any audience members in attendance at the event at all. Those details will all be determined closer to the debate, depending “on the status of the pandemic,” the university said in the release.
Case Western was also the host of the 2004 vice presidential debate between then-Vice President Dick Cheney and Democratic challenger John Edwards.
The second debate in the three-event series also underwent a change last month when the University of Michigan withdrew because of similar coronavirus concerns. That event will now be held in Miami, Florida, on October 15. It is scheduled to be held at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County.
The third and final presidential debate is currently still planned to be held at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee, on October 22. The vice presidential debate is scheduled to be held on October 7 at the University of Utah, which is located in Salt Lake City.
Despite concerns over the coronavirus, the Biden campaign has said that they plan to take full part in all three scheduled debates. Trump and his team have called for more debates and an earlier start time, but Biden’s camp pushed back on those asks.