PHOENIX - Coronavirus fears have prompted organizers of the Democratic debate in Phoenix to cancel the planned head-to-head event in Arizona, and will instead hold it at a studio in Washington, D.C., CNN and the Democratic National Committee announced Thursday.
"Out of an abundance of caution and in order to reduce cross-country travel, all parties have decided that the best path forward is to hold Sunday's debate at CNN's studio in Washington, D.C., with no live audience," DNC communications director Xochitl Hinojosa said in a statement.
CNN also reported that Univision's Jorge Ramos, one of the original debate moderators, was potentially exposed to coronavirus but is not showing any symptoms. He will not moderate the debate, said the DNC. Instead, the network's Ilia Calderón will take his place, alongside CNN's Dana Bash and Jake Tapper. The debate is still set to take place 8 to 10 p.m. ET Sunday.
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Local and national organizers initially selected Phoenix to underscore the state's importance as a presidential battleground and the efforts by Democrats to build on momentum they saw during the 2018 cycle, where Democrats won four statewide seats. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema became the first Democrat in 30 years to win a Senate seat.
But the event was dramatically scaled back earlier this week because of the new coronavirus outbreak, which prompted President Donald Trump on Wednesday night to announce sweeping travel restrictions on 26 European countries in an effort to stop the spread of the virus.
Earlier this week, at the request of candidates Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and former Vice President Joe Biden, organizers scrapped plans for a live audience at the debate. The debate was scheduled to take place at the Arizona Federal Theatre, the downtown Phoenix venue long known as Comerica Theatre.
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Organizers also halted plans for a debate spin room and press filing center.
The Phoenix debate was sponsored by CNN and Univision and in partnership with CHC Bold, the political arm of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.
This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Phoenix presidential debate moved to Washington, D.C., as precaution