The microbial path of the coronavirus through the US political realm has upended the election campaign. What happens to the main events coming up in the next month?
October 7: Vice presidential debate
As it stands, the lone debate scheduled between Republican vice president Mike Pence and Democratic challenger and California Senator, Kamala Harris, will take place this Wednesday at the University Of Utah in Salt Lake City, after both politicians tested negative for coronavirus on Friday.
The Commission on Presidential Debates has agreed to seat Harris and Pence 12 feet apart, instead of what had been expected to be seven feet, after Joe Biden’s campaign raised health and safety objections.
October 12: Supreme Court confirmation hearing in the US Senate
According to the Republicans’ goal of replacing supreme court justice and liberal icon Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died last month, with arch conservative Amy Coney Barrett before the election, the confirmation hearings in the US Senate are scheduled to begin on October 12.
But two Republican senators on the judiciary committee have already been diagnosed with Covid-19 since Trump’s diagnosis.
“Democrats have already started arguing that the process should be delayed or postponed. It’s not a matter of constitutional law, and many congressional hearings in recent months have been done remotely, so it’s up to Republicans in the Senate who control the process,” Richard Pildes, an expert on elections and US government at New York University School of Law, said.
However, when it comes to voting on Barrett: “There have been debates around remote voting and whether there’s a constitutional problem. The senate has been resistant to going that route, but they could probably do it if they chose to. But if a senator needs to be there in person, they could probably arrange it so that the chamber is cleared except for a few officials we need to be there.”
October 15 and October 22: Second and final presidential debates scheduled between Trump and Biden
The two remaining presidential debates are open to question. The next is scheduled for October 15 – a “town hall-style” meeting in Miami, Florida, with questions from the public – and a final debate on the October 22, in Nashville, Tennessee.
Even if Trump’s case of Covid-19 remains mild, he will still have to isolate for two weeks. That would mean he can’t set foot out of quarantine until mid to late October—putting not only the October 15 debate out of the question but throwing the October 22 debate into question
November 3: Election Day
In these final weeks of the election campaign, Trump has now swapped a busy schedule of rallies and in-person fundraisers for hospital. Biden, meanwhile, is forging ahead with his campaign schedule, as long as he and his wife Jill continue testing negative for Covid-19, as they did on Friday.
Biden had taken a low-key approach to in-person campaigning, but as he began rolling out more in-person canvassing on Thursday, he suddenly looks very present compared with the confined president. He took a seven-stop train tour of Ohio and Pennsylvania last week. When or whether Trump will be back on the campaign trail in person before November 3 is anyone’s guess.
Scientists still lack conclusive proof that the two anti-Covid drugs given to Donald Trump are clinically effective.
UK researchers point out that both medicines – remdesivir and REGN-COV2 – have still to complete the large-scale, randomised trials needed to demonstrate fully their ability to counter Covid-19 in patients. And many have criticised US authorities for their failures to carry out such trials. This has undermined efforts to find effective medicines to treat people affected by the disease.
“If President Trump gets better, we will still not know if those drugs played a role in his recovery or not. They may have been critically important or played no part at all,” said Professor Martin Landray of Oxford University. “That means when we come to treat the next patient hospitalised with Covid, we will still be none the wiser about the usefulness of those drugs.”
By contrast, Britain has adopted a policy of running blind, randomised trials to test drug efficacy through the Recovery testing programme – founded by Landray and Peter Horby, also of Oxford University. It compares responses of patients who get a treatment with those who are given a placebo. In this way, British scientists pinpointed the effectiveness of dexamethasone, a cheap steroid, in treating Covid while they demonstrated the uselessness of the much-touted drug hydroxychloroquine.
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