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DNC has no plans to scrap upcoming Sanders/Biden debate over coronavirus concerns

'We are in touch with local officials and will follow their guidance'

Drew Angerer/Getty Images

While large public gatherings around the country and the world have been canceled or postponed due to the ongoing outbreak of the new coronavirus — formally known as COVID-19 — the Democratic National Committee says that it doesn't plan to cancel its upcoming 2020 presidential primary debate, at least for now.

According to a statement from DNC spokesperson Xochitl Hinojosa on Monday, Sunday's debate in Phoenix should go ahead as planned, the Arizona Republic reported.

"We are in touch with local officials and will follow their guidance," Hinojosa said. "There are no plans to cancel the debate."

The event will happen as concerns continue to grow about the spread of the coronavirus, which began in China late last year. Sunday's debate will bring together not only two top presidential candidates, but also their staff, the press, and members of the public.

In a statement reported by the Hill, Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego said that her team understands "the responsibility that comes with hosting an event under these circumstances" and is taking precautions ahead of the debate while reassessing the situation on a daily basis.

"We understand that the fear felt by residents is real, which is why we want to ensure transparency and efficiency in the dissemination of information on this topic," Gallego said. "At this time, we are working with the understanding that the debate is moving forward as planned and taking proper safety precautions in the lead up to Sunday. Based on this information we will reassess daily what possible changes need to be made."

The Grand Canyon State's first case of coronavirus was confirmed in late January. On Monday, the state reported its sixth confirmed case of the disease, as state Health Services Director Dr. Cara Christ informed the public that the state had also seen community spread of the virus for the first time.

Before it was plagued with concerns about the potential for coronavirus transmission, Sunday's debate faced criticism over new DNC criteria that favored top primary candidates Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and former Vice President Joe Biden by singularly excluding Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii), who would have qualified under previous rules.

"To keep me off the stage, the DNC again arbitrarily changed the debate qualifications," Gabbard tweeted of the DNC's announcement calling on her opponents to speak out against it. "Previously they changed the qualifications in the OPPOSITE direction so Bloomberg could debate. I ask that you stand w/ me against the DNC's transparent effort to exclude me from the debates."

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