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Did the Coronavirus Plan the Vice Presidential Debate?

The debate stage of Wednesday’s vice presidential debate at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, which now features two very useless panes of plexiglass.

The controversy stage of Wednesday’s vice presidential debate on the College of Utah in Salt Lake Metropolis, which now options two very ineffective panes of plexiglass.
Photograph: Julio Cortez (AP)

The vice presidential debate tonight between Mike Pence and Kamala Harris appears set to go forward, regardless of Pence’s current publicity to individuals who later examined optimistic for the novel coronavirus. Given the pitiful precautions enacted to stop transmission of the aerosol-spread virus—tiny plexiglass obstacles, who do you suppose you’re defending?—it’s value questioning: Did the coronavirus plan this debate? And is the coronavirus now controlling President Trump through tiny levers and buttons in his mind?

For starters, there’s the very normal President Trump, contemporary off three days of hospitalization. Thus far, there stays no clear indication of when or how Trump contracted the an infection, nor detailed details about the present state of his well being and the danger of an infection he poses to others (on Wednesday afternoon, a memo signed by his attending physician claimed that Trump had been symptom-free for greater than 24 hours, however Trump himself has not made a public look since Monday night time). His current tweets are, once more, very normal.

Greater than two dozen White Home officers or shut political allies to Trump have just lately tested positive for the coronavirus, together with former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie (at present hospitalized), Utah senator Mike Lee, and longtime guide Kellyanne Conway. Many of those individuals attended the September 26 occasion on the White Home Rose Backyard the place Trump introduced his nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court docket. This Rose Backyard assembly of over 200 individuals is now thought to have been a super-spreading event for the virus.

Vice President Mike Pence was additionally in attendance that day, although the White Home claims that Pence continues to check adverse for covid-19. The Facilities for Illness Management and Prevention cleared Pence for the controversy. Nevertheless, Pence appears to be overtly flouting the public health guidelines established by that exact same CDC, which calls for people to isolate for a minimum of 14 days and follow bodily distancing from others following publicity to individuals with confirmed covid-19.

Whereas it’s unimaginable to really know the way many individuals had been infectious that day on the Rose Backyard, Pence instantly sat in entrance of Mike Lee through the announcement, and he sat throughout from Kellyanne Conway and Melania Trump, one other confirmed optimistic. Different consultants have speculated that Pence was additionally possible in shut contact with Donald Trump himself days previous to his first identified signs final week, a time frame when contaminated people are contagious.

Following Trump’s hospitalization, the Biden/Harris marketing campaign called for the plexiglass to be put in as an extra security measure through the debate—a measure Pence overtly mocked, even because the President was hospitalized. After a number of days of back-and-forth, Pence’s camp relented on Tuesday.

In fact, although, the plexiglass is extra theater than security. Stable obstacles like face shields are simplest at blocking droplets expelled at shut vary. The candidates might be 12 ft other than one another, twice the gap that droplets are likely to journey earlier than falling to the bottom. The extra worrying danger is that tiny aerosols containing the virus can linger within the air and waft over into the mouth or nostril of an uninfected particular person. A small plexiglass barrier is probably going no extra helpful at stopping these aerosols than a tennis racket can be at catching bubbles.

Pence nonetheless testing adverse is an encouraging signal that he doesn’t have covid-19, however an an infection can typically take every week or longer to develop, and false negatives on a covid-19 check stay comparatively widespread as much as the day that signs begin. Plus, the White Home has clearly been dishonest about check outcomes up to now.

The great-ish information is that even when Pence or Harris is contaminated and contagious on the controversy stage tonight, it’s not a assure that they’d transmit the virus to 1 one other. Most infections are nonetheless considered induced by way of shut contact with droplets and/or aerosols, not by way of long-range aerosols.

On the identical time, the Fee on Presidential Debates doesn’t appear to be taking additional steps towards stopping airborne transmission, akin to putting in comparatively low cost air filters and even simply constructing a safer plexiglass barrier with a couple of wall for the virus to sidestep. And nobody on both aspect appears to be pushing for merely having the controversy performed remotely, by far the most secure choice that will make all of this guesswork fully irrelevant.

That brings us again to the large query. The President and Pence, the top of the White Home’s coronavirus process drive, appear to be doing as little as they presumably can to cease the virus from spreading among their very own employees and allies—a microcosm of the administration’s failing response to a pandemic that has killed greater than 200,000 People. Trump himself informed individuals to not concern the virus on Monday, at the same time as he’s at present receiving a number of experimental therapies and a steroid after falling alarmingly in poor health days earlier.

If the mastermind operative of the Trump 2020 marketing campaign is a trillion coronaviruses stacked on high of one another in a trench coat, effectively, a minimum of all of this could make sense.

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Ed Cara