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Democrats scrap live audience for Arizona debate

Democrats scrap live audience for Arizona debate
© Greg Nash

The Democratic National Committee (DNC) announced on Tuesday there will be no live audience allowed at Sunday night’s debate in Arizona between former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenAppeals court OKs White House diverting military funding to border wall construction Federal student loan payment suspension extended another month Pentagon: Tentative meeting between spy agencies, Biden transition set for early next week MORE and Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersOn The Money: Unemployment gains lower than expected | Jobs report lights fire under coronavirus relief talks Sanders says he can't support bipartisan COVID-19 relief proposal in its current form Progressives push for direct payments to be included in COVID-19 relief deal MORE (I-Vt.) over concerns about the spread of the coronavirus.

DNC communications director Xochitl Hinojosa said the request to hold the debate in a mostly empty auditorium came from both the Biden and Sanders campaigns. However, the DNC said the debate would otherwise continue as scheduled.

“The DNC has been in regular communication with local health officials and the Mayor's office, which advised that we could proceed as planned,” Hinojosa said. “Nevertheless, our number one priority has and will continue to be the safety of our staff, campaigns, Arizonans and all those involved in the debate.  We will continue to remain in daily contact with all stakeholders through Sunday.”

The March 15 debate is the final scheduled debate of the primary season, and comes two days before voters in Arizona, Florida, Ohio and Illinois cast ballots.

The news comes as the Sanders and Biden campaigns scrapped planned rallies in Cleveland on Tuesday in an effort to curb the spread of the virus.