Dems say no live audience at Phoenix debate amid coronavirus fears
PHOENIX — The Democratic National Committee on Tuesday announced that Sunday’s debate at the Arizona Federal Theatre will not feature a live audience amid growing coronavirus fears.
DNC Communications Director Xochitl Hinojosa said in a statement that the decision was made at the request of the campaigns of Democratic Party candidates Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders.
The debate, scheduled to begin at 5 p.m., will still go on as planned, Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego said in a tweet.
“The DNC has been in regular communication with local health officials and the Mayor’s office, which advised that we could proceed as planned,” Hinojosa said.
“Nevertheless, our number one priority has and will continue to be the safety of our staff, campaigns, Arizonans and all those involved in the debate.”
The decision also means the debate will be closed to the media.
CNN, which is broadcasting the debate, said earlier Tuesday there have been no talks about canceling it.
The Phoenix debate will be the Democratic Party’s 11th — and smallest — of the 2020 presidential campaign.
Although U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii is still in the race, recent qualifying rules established by the Democratic National Committee requiring a candidate to have 20% of convention delegates from state primary contests will prohibit her participation in the debate.