CLEVELAND, Ohio – When the Cleveland Clinic agreed to be the health security adviser for the Commission on Presidential Debates, it promised rigorous practices to help ensure that the forums remained coronavirus-free.


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But following the news that Republican President Donald Trump, first lady Melania Trump and top aide Hope Hicks tested positive for the virus, a look back at Tuesday night in Cleveland shows those rules did not have to be followed by the president’s family.

The coronavirus spread has not been traced to the debate itself, which was held at the Sheila and Eric Samson Pavilion on the health education campus of the Clinic and Case Western Reserve University.

But photos from the night show Trump’s family clearly going against guidelines to wear masks in indoor settings.

That includes the president’s adult children, who were pictured multiple times without masks. A pool report said a Clinic doctor even offered them one in case they didn’t received one upon entry. Nobody the doctor reminded put on a mask, according to the report.

Fox News anchor Chris Wallace, who moderated the debate, said Friday that Clinic staff asked everyone to wear a mask, which Trump’s family declined to do. Democratic former Vice President Joe Biden’s family and guests all complied, Wallace said.

Wallace also pointed out that Melania Trump joined the president on stage without a mask following the debate.

“I’ve always been disturbed, frankly, that people think the mask is a political issue and wearing the mask or not wearing the mask is a political issue. It’s a safety issue,” Wallace said. “And the best scientists in America say, not that they’re a perfect cure, not that they’re a vaccine, but wearing a mask today is currently the best weapon we currently have to avoid getting the disease and transmitting the disease. If there’s one lesson from today it’s that here’s the president of the United States that lives in the biggest bubble on the planet and he got it, through no fault of his own. The answer is wear the damn mask.”

The Clinic declined to answer questions Friday about why the Trump family was exempted from the Clinic’s rules inside the debate hall.

In a statement, the Clinic said temperature checks, hand sanitizing, social distancing and masking were required for debate guests, and everyone who entered the debate hall was required to have tested negative for COVID-19.

Both campaigns were responsible for testing their respective candidates and the people traveling with them, the Clinic said in the statement.

“Based on what we know about the virus and the safety measures we had in place, we believe there is low risk of exposure to our guests,” the statement said. “Out of an abundance of caution we are reaching out to our guests to address any questions and concerns, as well as offering testing.”

The debate commission required media members, who were set up in a filing center in a different building, to wear masks at all times and be tested before the debate.

Trump has resisted wearing a mask in public and the Trump campaign has not required masks at events. On stage Tuesday night, Trump criticized Democratic former Vice President Joe Biden for consistently wearing a mask.

At a pair of rallies last week in Dayton and Toledo, masks were optional for the crowds of hundreds of people.


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