Belmont University and presidential debate organizers are still planning for a debate between President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden in Nashville on Oct. 22, despite widespread uncertainty over whether it will happen.
After Trump tested positive for COVID-19 on the heels of the first debate between the two presidential candidates, the Commission on Presidential Debates decided to make the second event, originally scheduled next week in Miami, a virtual one. But Trump refused to participate, instead suggesting adding another event in the days before the Nov. 3 election.
For now, organizers say the Belmont debate is still on, 12 years after the university hosted presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain. The event was supposed to be a traditional debate but after the Miami event was canceled, the Biden team asked that the Nashville event be changed to a town-hall format.
“You just gotta roll with it, baby,” Belmont President Bob Fisher told WPLN. “We just have to be ready to be versatile, flexible, and to do whatever it is that gets this show done, that gets these two candidates together to exchange ideas.”
The university announced Friday that Nashville-based hospital chain HCA Healthcare would oversee health protocols for the event later this month. According to a release, HCA personnel will provide COVID testing and screening as well as education and enforcement of health rules, including a mask mandate flouted by Trump's entourage during the first debate.
“We are pleased to provide clinical resources and expertise honed through experience refining safety protocols and protection measures since the onset of COVID-19,” Jonathan Perlin, chief medical officer and president of HCA's clinical operations group, said in the release. “We are honored to collaborate with Belmont University to help ensure a safe event for the Nashville community and visitors from around the country.”