July 28, 2020 / 12:04 AM / 11 days ago

Notre Dame withdraws as U.S. presidential debate host, cites pandemic

U.S. President Donald Trump wears a protective face mask during a tour of the Fujifilm Diosynth Biotechnologies' Innovation Center, a pharmaceutical manufacturing plant where components for a potential coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine candidate are being developed, in Morrrisville, North Carolina, U.S., July 27, 2020. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The University of Notre Dame said on Monday it has pulled out as host of the first 2020 U.S. presidential debate on Sept. 29 due to concerns over the coronavirus pandemic, so the event’s location will be shifted to Cleveland.

The first debate between President Donald Trump and his Democratic challenger, former Vice President Joe Biden, will now be co-hosted by Case Western Reserve University and the Cleveland Clinic, the Commission on Presidential Debates said.

Rev. John I. Jenkins, president of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana, said in a statement that the health precautions necessary to stage the debate “would have greatly diminished the educational value of hosting the debate on our campus.” Student attendance would be restricted and volunteer opportunities minimized, Jenkins said.

The re-location marks the second time a debate site has been moved due to the pandemic. In June, the University of Michigan bowed out of the second presidential debate on Oct. 15, and the event was shifted to Miami.

A third presidential debate will be held in Nashville on Oct. 22. A debate between Vice President Mike Pence and the yet unnamed Democratic vice presidential nominee will be held in Salt Lake City on Oct. 7.

Reporting by Steve Holland, Doina Chiacu and James Oliphant; Editing by Dan Grebler and David Gregorio

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