WASHINGTON — The pandemic has officially hit the campaign trail.
Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden both canceled planned Tuesday-night rallies in Cleveland due to local health officials’ concerns about the coronavirus.
The decisions mark the first time a presidential campaign has canceled a publicly scheduled event — and it could be a harbinger of things to come as campaigns, like everyone else, grapple with how to responsibly function during the virus outbreak.
“Out of concern for public health and safety, we are canceling tonight’s rally in Cleveland. We are heeding the public warnings from Ohio state officials, who have communicated concern about holding large, indoor events during the coronavirus outbreak. Sen. Sanders would like to express his regret to the thousands of Ohioans who had planned to attend the event tonight,” Sanders spokesman Mike Casca said in a statement. “All future Bernie 2020 events will be evaluated on a case by case basis.”
Shortly after Sanders’ campaign announced their event was off, Biden’s campaign did the same.
“In accordance with guidance from public officials and out of an abundance of caution, our rally in Cleveland, Ohio, tonight is cancelled. We will continue to consult with public health officials and public health guidance and make announcements about future events in the coming days,” Biden spokeswoman Kate Bedingfield said.
Until now, no presidential campaign events had been canceled because of the virus, though both Sanders and Biden didn’t campaign in Washington, a state whose primary is Tuesday and where the country’s worst coronavirus outbreak has occurred. But it’s hard to see how the disease won’t impact future campaigning in every race from the White House down.
So far, President Trump has refused to commit to avoiding big campaign rallies — but his campaign schedule is notably empty this week.
Cover: Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., visits outside a polling location at Warren E. Bow Elementary School in Detroit, Tuesday, March 10, 2020. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)