“Out of concern for public health and safety, we are canceling tonight’s rally in Cleveland,” said Mike Casca, the Sanders campaign’s communications director. “We are heeding the public warnings from Ohio state officials, who have communicated concern about holding large, indoor events during the coronavirus outbreak. Sen. Sanders would like to express his regret to the thousands of Ohioans who had planned to attend the event tonight.”
About a half hour later, Biden’s communications director, Kate Bedingfield, said in a statement that their event in Cleveland also will be canceled.
“In accordance with guidance from public officials and out of an abundance of caution, our rally in Cleveland, Ohio tonight is cancelled,” she said in a statement. “We will continue to consult with public health officials and public health guidance and make announcements about future events in the coming days. Vice President Biden thanks all of his supporters who wanted to be with us in Cleveland this evening.”
Both campaigns said they will assess whether to go forward with future events.
These are the first major events to be canceled by presidential campaigns because of the coronavirus outbreak. In recent days there have been increasing postponements and cancellations of just the type of large gatherings that are a staple of presidential politics, so the decision is not entirely surprising. Some attendees wore facemasks to Sanders’ pre-Super Tuesday rally in Los Angeles, reflecting worries about the virus more than a week ago.
At the very least, the cancellations will change the tenor of coverage of Tuesday night’s six presidential contests in Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Idaho, North Dakota and Washington state, as news networks stake out spots at rallies to gather reactions to the results. The Biden campaign is making arrangements for him to make some kind of appearance before the media; Sanders’ campaign has not yet announced what it will do.
The candidates also are scheduled to participate in a Democratic debate in Phoenix on Sunday. The hosts of the debate, CNN and Univision, have not yet said whether their plans for the event will be changed.