Notre Dame withdraws from hosting first presidential debate due to coronavirus

The University of Notre Dame announced it will withdraw from hosting the first presidential debate in September due to concerns about the coronavirus pandemic.

The University of Notre Dame announced Monday it will withdraw from hosting the first presidential debate in September due to concerns about the coronavirus pandemic.

The debate, scheduled for September 29, will now take place at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland.

"I am grateful to the many members of the University community who have devoted countless hours planning this event, and to the Commission on Presidential Debates leadership for their professionalism and understanding," said the Rev. John Jenkins, the president of Notre Dame, in a statement. "But in the end, the constraints the coronavirus pandemic put on the event -- as understandable and necessary as they are -- have led us to withdraw."

The decision marks the second time a presidential debate has been moved this election cycle because of the pandemic. The second presidential debate scheduled for October was originally set to be held at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, but it was moved last month to Miami.

In addition to Case Western Reserve University, the September debate will be co-hosted by the Cleveland Clinic, which serves as a Health Security Advisor to the Commission on Presidential Debates.

"We are honored to host this presidential debate at our shared Health Education Campus," Cleveland Clinic CEO and President Tom Mihaljevic and Case Western Reserve President Barbara Snyder said in a joint statement.

"This pandemic has highlighted the critical importance of health care and scientific discovery in unprecedented ways. To have the presidential candidates discuss these issues in our innovative learning space represents a tremendous opportunity for both institutions -- and our entire region," they said.

The event will specifically take place on Case Western Reserve's Health Education campus in the 477,000-square-foot Samson Pavilion with a series of "risk-mitigation procedures," including audience size, distance among seats and disinfectant measures, according to a statement from Case Western and the Cleveland Clinic.

But the institutions said that "the precise nature of those plans -- including whether an audience is present -- will depend on the status of the pandemic as the event draws closer."

The statement added that the Health Education campus' distance from the main campus "made co-hosting more feasible."

The step marks just the latest major adjustment to the 2020 general election schedule as the coronavirus continues to grip the country.

President Donald Trump announced earlier this month that Republicans had scrapped plans to hold convention activities in Jacksonville, Florida. Pared-back events in Charlotte, North Carolina, will still be held, Trump said.

And former Vice President Joe Biden will formally accept the Democratic presidential nomination in Milwaukee at the scaled-back party convention with a major digital component.

This story has been updated with additional information Monday.

CNN's MJ Lee contributed to this report.

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