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Case Western Reserve University and Cleveland Clinic to host first presidential debate on September 29

The debate between President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden will take place in the Health Education Campus' Samson Pavilion.

CLEVELAND — The political spotlight will shine on Cleveland this fall when President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden will square off for their first presidential debate. 

The Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) announced Monday that the Health Education Campus (HEC) of Case Western Reserve University and Cleveland Clinic will host the first presidential debate Tuesday, Sept. 29, in its Sheila and Eric Samson Pavilion.

The need for a new Sept. 29 location arose after original host University of Notre Dame withdrew because of COVID-19 concerns for its fall semester. Case Western Reserve also is deep in COVID-19 preparations, but the partnership with Cleveland Clinic – and the HEC’s distance from the university’s main campus – made co-hosting more feasible.

“We are honored to host this presidential debate at our shared Health Education Campus,” Cleveland Clinic CEO and President Tom Mihaljevic, M.D., and Case Western Reserve University President Barbara R. Snyder said in a joint statement. “This pandemic has highlighted the critical importance of health care and scientific discovery in unprecedented ways. To have the presidential candidates discuss these issues in our innovative learning space represents a tremendous opportunity for both institutions – and our entire region.”

This year’s debate will mark Case Western Reserve’s second time hosting a debate. In 2004, the university hosted the Vice Presidential debate between Dick Cheney and John Edwards in the Veale Convocation Recreation and Athletic Center. About 43.6 million people watched that event. Viewing projections for this year’s debate exceed 100 million.

The co-chairs of the CPD, Frank J. Fahrenkopf, Jr., Dorothy S. Ridings, and Kenneth Wollack said: “We are deeply grateful to Cleveland Clinic and Case Western Reserve University for hosting this historic forum. Case Western generously hosted our 2004 vice presidential debate, and we are looking forward to working with University officials again. Cleveland Clinic is advising the CPD on health protocols for all four debates, and it will be most informative to team with Clinic professionals on the Health Education Campus.”

Cleveland Clinic will establish risk-mitigation procedures within Samson Pavilion, including audience size, distance among seats, and disinfectant measures. The precise nature of those plans –including whether an audience is present – will depend on the status of the pandemic as the event draws closer.

“We are all challenged with adapting to a ‘new normal’ and safety is key as we all face this pandemic together,” said James Merlino, M.D., Chief Clinical Transformation Officer at Cleveland Clinic and Chief Health Security Advisor to the Commission on of Presidential Debates for the 2020 general election. “The Cleveland Clinic has been focused on understanding, containing and preparing for COVID-19. We are sharing our knowledge and advising various industries to help keep our communities safe as we enter into this next phase of COVID-19 response.”

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