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Democratic Debate to Relocate Amid Pandemic Tension

AP Photo/Patrick Semansky

As the nation's stress over the expanding Wuhan virus continues to grow, the Democratic National Committee has opted to move the venue for the Monday night debate to Washington, D.C.

Originally slated to be held in Phoenix, Arizona, the CNN-Univision hosted debate will now take place in the CNN studios in the nation's capital. The DNC had already scrapped plans to have a live audience during the debate between Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders to avoid large gatherings of people who could possibly be infectious. 

Concerned over the increased risk that would be brought on by having both Democratic campaigns travel cross country for the debate, the DNC opted to move the event to a much smaller venue in D.C. 

"Out of an abundance of caution and in order to reduce cross-country travel, all parties have decided that the best path forward is to hold Sunday’s debate at CNN’s studio in Washington, D.C., with no live audience,” spokeswoman for the DNC Xochitl Hinojosa said.

In addition to the change in venue, Univision host Jorge Ramos will no longer be moderating the debate. The DNC says that Ramos was recently "in proximity with someone who was in direct contact with a person that tested positive for coronavirus [Wuhan virus]."

"Despite being cleared by medical professionals and out of an abundance of caution, Jorge has decided to step aside from participating in the upcoming March 15 Democratic debate. Univision’s News Anchor Ilia Calderón will moderate the debate in his place,” said Hinojosa. “Our number one priority has and will continue to be the safety of our staff, campaigns, and all those involved in the debate."

Some felt that the debate would be canceled altogether after frontrunner Joe Biden's resounding primary victories beginning with Super Tuesday. Even though Sanders's path to the White House has all-but been erased, the socialist senator from Vermont insisted that the debate go forward. 

Sanders conceded that the math was not behind him in the current delegate count but wanted to go forward with the debate to push Joe Biden to appeal to the young voters that had largely made up Sanders' base. 

"Joe, what are you going to end the absurdity of the United States of America being the only major country on earth where health care is not a human right?" said Sanders, offering an example of the type of question he might ask on Monday night. "Are you really going to veto a 'Medicare for All' bill if it is passed in Congress?" 

Sanders also vowed to press the former Vice President on climate change and several other issues that he campaigned on. 

Biden has also changed plans for upcoming campaign events in the wake of the Wuhan virus panic gripping the nation. Events scheduled in Illinois and Florida will now be held "virtually," scrapping the plans for large crowd events. The Biden campaign also formed the Public Health Advisory Committee, designed to protect the  77-year-old candidate as well as his staff and supporters. 

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