COVID-19 safety precautions at the presidential debate are ‘adequate,’ but may leave some in danger, experts say
President Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden will face off in the final presidential debate at Belmont University in Nashville on Thursday night, just weeks after the president contracted and recovered from COVID-19. Experts say the precautions that have been taken to prevent the spread of the virus are a step in the right direction, but could still leave some of the estimated 200 attendees at risk.
The Commission on Presidential Debates, which sponsors the event, has reportedly put several protective measures in place, including a mask mandate for attendees, pre-testing ahead of the event and social distancing in the audience. Biden has reportedly already tested negative for the virus, and in an email from Yahoo Life asking about President Trump’s status, a spokesperson for his campaign replied that “the President will be cleared by the White House Medical Unit.” White House chief of staff Mark Meadows told reporters on Thursday the president was tested for COVID-19 on his flight to Nashville and was negative.
The two candidates will be separated by plexiglass dividers, and the Nashville Public Health Department is reportedly also installing separate HVAC systems near each candidate to increase airflow. But in a press conference Thursday morning, Nashville Mayor John Cooper warned that a “surge” in cases was occurring in the city, now averaging 175 new infections a day. “Health experts have warned that we need to double down on masks and social distancing to stop this surge in its tracks,” Cooper said.
Nashville experienced a drop in daily COVID-19 cases in September, but city officials have reported a rapid rise in the last weeks — including 249 cases in the past 24 hours alone. In total, Davidson County, where Nashville is located, has 30,115 cases and 328 deaths since the pandemic began, according to Thursday data from the Tennessee Department of Health.
Although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has highlighted the importance of ventilation, Dr. Saskia Popescu, an infection prevention specialist at George Mason University, says that the HVAC systems aren’t necessarily as useful as they seem. “I’m assuming they’re saying that they’re using separate air handling units for the candidates … but I’m not sure how that would be a panacea,” she tells Yahoo Life. “Increasing air exchanges and filtration is the goal.”
Dr. Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins University Center for Health Security, thinks the precautions taken to protect Trump and Biden are slightly over the top. “I think that they’re just kind of going above and beyond for most of this,” Adalja tells Yahoo Life. “I don’t think that is going to make much of a difference in transmission risk, especially since President Trump is not really a person who can be infected with the virus.” The audience precautions, however, are sufficient.
OCEAN CITY, NJ — Despite a small bump in coronavirus inpatients, doctors told Ocean City Mayor Jay Gillian they are not “overly concerned.” But Gillian said everyone should continue to take precautions.
Doctors are learning more about the virus and how to treat it, so they’re not too concerned about the slight increase, he said.
“Please continue to take personal responsibility for wearing masks, avoiding crowds and large indoor gatherings, and washing hands,” Gillian said in his weekly address. “And please stay at home if you feel sick or show symptoms of any illness. Together, we can help to minimize the spread of the virus and keep everybody safe and healthy.”
Shore Medical Center brought back a visitor ban Wednesday because of an increase in cases in its hospital community and South Jersey. After the Tuesday announcement, a spokesperson for the hospital told Patch they had eight coronavirus inpatients at the time. Read more: Shore Medical Center Reinstitutes Visitor Ban Due To Coronavirus
Similarly, AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center announced visitor restrictions for its emergency departments in Galloway, Atlantic City and Hammonton. The hospital network reported an increase in patients presenting flu-like symptoms and an uptick in community spread. Read more: AtlantiCare Restricts Visitors Due To Local Coronavirus Uptick
“We remind all members of our community to call your healthcare provider first before visiting a doctor’s office, urgent care, or emergency department for symptoms of cold, flu, COVID-19 and other infectious illnesses,” AtlantiCare spokesperson Jennifer Tornetta told Patch in a statement. “If you are having difficulty breathing or are having a life-threatening emergency, dial 911.”
The Cape May County Health Department reported nine active cases, 107 people cleared off quarantine and three deaths in Ocean City as of Sunday morning. Cape May County has reported 81 active cases, 1,294 people cleared off quarantine and 93 deaths, officials said.
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This article originally appeared on the Ocean City Patch