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Break off the debate if Trump still has COVID-19, says Biden



As the coronavirus outbreak at the White House spiraled further out of control on Tuesday, Joe Biden suggested canceling the presidential debate in Miami next week if President Trump is still ill with COVID-19.

The Democratic candidate’s remarks came as medical experts asked if Trump could attend without endangering Biden, the moderator and the audience in the town hall-style debate scheduled for October 15.

Due to limited and sometimes misleading medical information released by the White House, it is possible that the Republican president may still be contagious next week. There is also a chance Trump will deteriorate and end up back in the hospital, they said.

After speaking in Gettysburg, Pa., Biden hoped the safety protocols set for the Cleveland Clinic debates were followed. When asked if he would feel safe with Trump on stage, the former vice president said, “I think if he still has COVID we shouldn̵

7;t have a debate.”

Whether Trump will continue to be contagious depends on the severity of his case, as defined by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. COVID-19 patients can safely end isolation 10 days after the onset of illness, provided they have been symptom-free for 24 hours, according to the CDC. In severe cases it is 20 days.

If it’s 10 days, Trump could come out of isolation this weekend – ahead of the Miami debate. If it’s 20, it would be the week after the debate. Even if doctors put it up for debate, there is no guarantee it will not be contagious, especially during protracted, heated arguments indoors.

“The screaming creates a lot more aerosol, making these droplets finer and staying in the air longer and potentially infecting people,” said Peter Chin-Hong, professor of medicine who specializes in infectious diseases at UC San Francisco.

Chin-Hong and others in his field suspect Trump’s case is grave, based in part on a video showing him walking up the stairs of the south portico at the White House on Monday after returning from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.

“He used a lot of muscles to breathe, he was short of breath, you can see his lips pursed – these are all signs that he continues to have lung involvement and possibly an active virus,” he said. Chin-Hong said he was concerned about Trump’s debate and suggested wearing a mask when he did.

According to experts, Trump’s case was also taken seriously as he was given oxygen twice and he was treated with dexamethasone, a steroid normally only used for severe COVID-19 cases.

On Friday, White House officials said Trump had only mild symptoms. But he was hospitalized that evening, and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows said Saturday that Trump’s “vital signs over the past 24 hours have been very worrying”.

Anne Rimoin, a UCLA professor of epidemiology, suggested that candidates stay in different locations, as Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy did in their third presidential debate in 1960. Nixon was in Los Angeles, Kennedy in New York.

She also questioned the trustworthiness of medical information released by a White House that has refused to conduct full contact tracing in an attempt to contain the outbreak of a disease that killed 210,000 Americans.

“The point here is to understand possibly one of the greatest, widespread events – and certainly the most famous – in history,” she said. “This is a scandal of epic proportions.”

Neha Nanda, an epidemiologist at USC’s Keck School of Medicine, said the timeframe for the contagion was not set. “It’s very nuanced and requires expert opinion to decide whether the patient is ready to come out of isolation,” she said.

Trump tweeted on Tuesday that he was looking forward to the debate. “It will be great!” he said.

As the day wore on, the number of infections among people near Trump continued to grow, and his senior White House adviser Stephen Miller tested positive at the end of the day. Others with the virus include First Lady Melania Trump, the presidential adviser, Hope Hicks, the White House press secretary, Kayleigh McEnany, four press secretaries, Trump’s personal assistant Nick Luna, his former senior adviser Kellyanne Conway, Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien and the former governor of New Jersey. Chris Christie, who helped Trump prepare his first debate and is now hospitalized with COVID-19.

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