As uncertainty grows, Belmont University partners with HCA Healthcare ahead of presidential debate

Posted at 8:24 PM, Oct 09, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-09 21:24:36-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Belmont University officials announced on Friday that they would be partnering with Nashville-based HCA Healthcare to help with COVID-19 protocols for the third presidential debate, which is scheduled for Oct. 22 at Belmont's Curb Event Center.

A Belmont spokesperson said HCA is supporting the guidelines put out by the Cleveland Clinic, which created protocols for the first presidential debate in Cleveland. Representatives from HCA traveled to Cleveland to observe those protocols last month.

"We are confident that HCA Healthcare’s knowledge as a leading healthcare provider with extensive infectious disease expertise will provide superior clinical guidance and safety support for this important event," Belmont President Dr. Bob Fisher said in a statement.

Belmont and HCA also released a preliminary list of safety measures for the debate:

  • Debate guests will have to follow the same rules as Belmont students, including a mask requirement in both indoor and outdoor spaces.
  • Debate operations will be separate from campus operations to minimize contact between students and debate crews.
  • All Belmont classes and student organizations will be virtual on Oct. 21 and Oct. 22 in another effort to minimize contact on campus.
  • HCA Healthcare will provide testing and screening protocols as needed for debate operations in coordination with CPD and Cleveland Clinic.
  • Belmont officials said there will be reduced media attendance and no 'spin alley' to increase social distancing. There will also be fewer associate delegates and limited ticket availability.

The list of guidelines was released as uncertainty around the Nashville debate continued to grow. Hours after the partnership with HCA was announced, The Commission on Presidential Debates announced it would officially cancel the second debate, which was scheduled to be in Miami on Oct. 15. The cancellation came after President Donald Trump tested positive for COVID-19, and then said he would not participate in a virtual debate.

NewsChannel 5 political analyst Pat Nolan said the cancellation makes the Belmont debate more important, as it will now be the only time they will have a stage of that scale before the election.