Kamala Harris and Mike Pence will sit over 12 feet apart and separated by a plexiglass wall at the vice presidential debate Wednesday night in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
But Pence’s team was reluctant to agree to the plexiglass wall, making fun of Harris for wanting to protect herself from the Vice President, who has been exposed to multiple people with the virus as the White House coronavirus outbreak rages.
The two campaigns renegotiated the terms of tomorrow’s debate in Utah, and Politico reports that Harris’s team wanted a plexiglass barrier to prevent the spread of the disease while Pence’s team opposed it.
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“If Sen. Harris wants to use a fortress around herself, have at it,” said Pence spokesperson Katie Miller.
Pence attended the now infamous White House Rose Garden gathering for the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court. At least eleven people who attended the event have been diagnosed with COVID-19, but Pence has not tested positive so far.
While protocol calls for people who have been exposed to the virus to quarantine for two weeks – it can take that long for someone exposed to the virus to test positive – the White House has maintained the Pence was not in close contact with anyone who had the virus and is free to continue campaigning.
Photos of the ceremony, though, show Pence sitting directly in front of Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT), who has tested positive for the virus. Lee was not wearing a mask.
So Harris’s team has reason to worry about her being exposed to the virus at the debate, which will last 90 minutes. Neither candidate will wear a mask.
While Pence’s team might not like what the plexiglass barrier will remind voters of – that coronavirus is a serious illness and that the White House has been irresponsible with it to the point that others have to take harsh measures to defend themselves – Pence himself has not always been opposed to the idea that people’s dignity and freedom should be compromised if there’s even the most threadbare connection between them and a contagious virus.
In 2000, when Pence was running for a U.S. House seat in Indiana, his campaign website said that federal HIV funds should be examined to determine if they’re going to organizations “that celebrate and encourage the types of behaviors that facilitate the spreading of the HIV virus.”
“Resources should be directed toward those institutions which provide assistance to those seeking to change their sexual behavior,” his website said. The implication is that LGBTQ people are inherently at risk of HIV and should therefore be forced into being straight.
In 2016, the Trump-Pence campaign said that what Pence meant to say on his website was that he opposed organizations that promote barebacking and wanted to encourage condom use, but long-time LGBTQ activists said that “change their sexual behavior” is well-known “code for conversion therapy.”