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What you need to know about tonight's presidential debate at Belmont University

Posted at 11:35 AM, Oct 19, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-22 12:10:06-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Tonight's final presidential debate at Belmont University has been more than a year in the making, and several adjustments have been made due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden are set to go head-to-head right here in Nashville. Tonight's debate should have been the third debate of the season, but the second one was canceled after President Trump was diagnosed with COVID-19.

The 90-minute debate will be split into 15-minute segments, with each candidate having two minutes of uninterrupted time at the start of each topic. During that time, the opponent's mic will be off. However, the mics won't be muted during open discussion.

The topics that will be discussed tonight are: fighting COVID-19, American families, race in America, climate change, national security and leadership.

According to Metro Public Health, protocols for all involved will include health and temperature checks, along with surgical-grade face mask requirements and social distancing requirements.

Last week, Metro’s interim police chief John Drake announced that more than 700 officers would be involved in security – that includes working motorcades and making sure the campus is safe.

With Belmont having already hosted one debate back in 2008, it's no stranger to all the security preps that have to go into hosting such a big event. The U.S. Secret Service is working with local law enforcement to make sure every moment is planned with safety in mind.

"Without question, this has been a unified and collaborative effort with the Nashville law enforcement and safety community. The partnerships that exist in our network are vital to the comprehensive security planning that has taken place," said Todd Hudson, Special Agent in Charge with the U.S. Secret Service.

Several roads have also closed ahead of the event. Drivers should also expect rolling roadblocks throughout the day.

Read more: Expect rolling roadblocks, street closures today for presidential debate

Although Belmont has the space to hold hundreds in their arena, the plan is to make this more of an experience for the people watching at home.

"We've masked arena here to the sides to create more of a TV-like setting. There will be another curtain that goes behind," Andrea Runner, director of event services at Belmont University, said last week.

Just this week, the Commission on Presidential Debates agreed to turn off the mic of the candidate not speaking during each candidate's two-minute response at the start of each debate topic to cut down on unnecessary interruptions.

The event is expected to pump money into the local economy as media crews and debate workers fly in from across the country.

The debate will air at 8 p.m. on NewsChannel 5. You can watch our extensive coverage of preparations on-air, online and on our streaming platforms, including Roku, Fire TV and Apple TV.