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Pence, Harris to clash in VP debate amid COVID-19 outbreak at White House

Coronavirus protocols at Wednesday’s (October 7) debate include seating Vice President Mike Pence and Democratic rival Senator Kamala Harris more than 12 feet (3.6 m) apart – farther than the 7 feet (2.1) originally agreed upon.

Harris had requested plexiglass shielding. Pence spokeswoman Katie Miller on Monday mocked Harris, saying if she “wants to use a fortress around herself, have at it.”

This week’s vice presidential debate has taken on an outsized and perhaps unprecedented significance, with questions about President Donald Trump’s health now looming over the U.S. election less than a month away.

Pence’s sole face-off against Harris, Democrat Joe Biden’s running mate in Salt Lake City comes as the Trump campaign reels from a COVID-19 outbreak that has infected not only the president but several in his inner circle.

Both Pence and Harris, a U.S. senator from California picked by Biden in August as his running mate, tested negative for the coronavirus on Tuesday. Current U.S. government guidelines call for anyone exposed to a person with COVID-19 to quarantine for 14 days regardless of test results.

Harris, who has largely stayed out of the spotlight in recent weeks as Biden ramped up campaign travel, must demonstrate to voters that she, too, could assume the presidency if needed should Biden, who’s 77, win the election.

Harris has panned the administration’s coronavirus response, headed by Pence. She will have to thread the needle between renewing those criticisms without attacking the recovering Trump personally, according to one vice presidential expert.

Pence, who once hosted a radio show while a congressman, and can be a more effective communicator than Trump, who in last week’s unruly debate against Biden struggled to make his case for re-election and often resorted to insults to try to rattle his opponent.

(Production: Temis Tormo)

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