CDC says V-P Pence safe to take part in US election debate against Harris

US vice-president Mike Pence is scheduled to debate his Democratic rival, Senator Kamala Harris on Oct 7, 2020.
US vice-president Mike Pence is scheduled to debate his Democratic rival, Senator Kamala Harris on Oct 7, 2020.PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (REUTERS, BLOOMBERG) - The US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention said it was safe for Vice-President Mike Pence to take part in Wednesday's (Oct 7) vice-presidential debate because he was not a close contact of anyone with Covid-19, including President Donald Trump.

Mr Pence's office on Tuesday tweeted a memorandum from CDC Director Robert Redfield, who said the CDC had made its determination after consulting with White House physician Dr Jesse Schonau about Mr Pence's possible exposure to the disease.

Dr Redfield said that based on its consultations with the doctor and Mr Pence's repeated negative tests, "the CDC concludes from a public health standpoint, it is safe for the Vice-President to participate in the upcoming Vice-Presidential debate."

Mr Pence, 61, is scheduled on Wednesday to debate his Democratic rival, Senator Kamala Harris who is Joe Biden's running mate.

The debate is scheduled to take place at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City at 9pm New York time (9am Thursday Singapore time).

A plexiglass barrier will separate them at the University of Utah debate. They will be more than 12 feet (3.7m) apart on the stage, farther than the 7 feet (2m) originally agreed on.

But Mr Pence doesn't want a plexiglass divider for his side of the stage, according to his aides.

Mr Marc Short, Mr Pence's chief of staff, told the Washington Post that their team does not view plexiglass dividers as medically necessary, given that the two debaters will be more than 12 feet apart.

Mr Short, who has led Mr Pence's debate preparations, told the Post that if Ms Harris "wants it, she's more than welcome to surround herself with plexiglass if that makes her feel more comfortable."

Mr Trump returned to the White House on Monday after three nights at Walter Reed Medical Centre where he was treated for the highly contagious disease.

Mr Pence has tested negative for Covid-19 repeatedly since Mr Trump announced that he was infected and went into quarantine.

Dr Redfield's memo said a close contact was defined as a person who came within 6 feet of an infected person for at least 15 minutes starting from two days before illness onset or giving a positive specimen.

Mr Pence was last seen publicly with Mr Trump on Monday at a Rose Garden news conference on coronavirus testing. The two men arrived at the event together, but spoke at separate lecterns; neither wore a mask.