June 23, 2020 / 2:03 PM / 10 days ago

University of Michigan pulls out of Trump-Biden TV debate; October debate set for Miami

FILE PHOTO: The candidate lecterns wait empty on the stage of the first U.S. 2020 presidential election Democratic candidates debate before the first 10 of 20 total Democratic candidates take the stage to start a debate that will be held over the course of two nights at the Adrienne Arsht Performing Arts Center in Miami, U.S. June 26, 2019. REUTERS/Jim Bourg/File Photo

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The University of Michigan on Tuesday pulled out of hosting a televised presidential debate in October, expressing concern it could not safely stage the event while reopening after a coronavirus lockdown.

The Oct. 15 event, scheduled to be the second debate between Republican President Donald Trump and his Democratic challenger, former Vice President Joe Biden, ahead of the Nov. 3 election, will now be held in Miami’s Adrienne Arsht Center, the Commission on Presidential Debates said in a statement.

Florida has reported more than 97,000 cases of the coronavirus, and new cases appear to be spiking after the state moved quickly to reopen, according to data from The COVID Tracking Project, a volunteer-run effort. Michigan has seen more than 67,000 confirmed coronavirus cases since March, but has seen fewer new cases in recent weeks.

The University of Michigan considered state public health guidelines and expert advice in its decision, school President Mark Schlissel said in a letter to the commission.

“Given the scale and complexity of the work we are undertaking to help assure a safe and healthy fall for our students, faculty and staff and limited visitors ... we feel it is not feasible for us to safely host the presidential debate as planned,” Schlissel wrote.

With Trump currently trailing Biden in most national opinion polls, the president’s campaign last week said it wanted more than the scheduled three debates and for the debates to begin sooner. Those requests were swiftly rejected by Biden’s team.

Biden Campaign Manager Jen O’Malley Dillon wrote to the debates commission on Monday, saying Biden would accept the current schedule of three presidential debates and one vice presidential debate between Sept. 29 and Oct. 22, and seeking assurances the commission was preparing for the potential impact of COVID-19 on the events.

Reporting by Simon Lewis; additional reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt; editing by Jonathan Oatis

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