The plexiglass barriers being used at Wednesday’s vice presidential debate in Salt Lake City are useless, experts said in a new report.
Vice President Mike Pence and Kamala Harris argued for days over last-minute changes to the debate format after President Trump and a dozen of his associates tested positive for COVID-19.
The Biden-Harris campaign lobbied for 12 feet of distance between the two candidates, up from the previously agreed-upon seven, and the installation of plexiglass barriers between the pair.
But airborne virus experts told the New York Times the two guards placed on stage will do nothing to protect Harris if Pence is infected with COVID-19, or vice versa.
“It’s absurd,” Linsey Marr, an environmental engineering professor at Virginia Tech and an expert in airborne viruses, told the publication.
“These are even smaller and less adequate than I imagined,” Marr said when she saw the design.
With the candidates seated so far apart, scientists said air filters would have been a much more effective way to keep them safe.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Monday updated their guidelines after finding that coronavirus particles could be spread further than six feet through airborne transmission in enclosed environments without adequate ventilation.
“Those plexiglass barriers are really only going to be effective if the vice president or Kamala Harris are spitting at each other,” said Ellie Murray, an epidemiologist at Boston University, calling the plexiglass barriers “just splatter shields.”
Donald Milton, an aerosol expert at the University of Maryland, told the Times that he contacted both campaigns and the Commission on Presidential Debates to recommend they purchase air filters.
The filters could have been placed in front of Pence and Harris to clean the air as they talked.
While Pence has continued to test negative for COVID-19, critics of the administration say the veep could still be unwittingly carrying the virus and risked infecting Harris and other attendees.
Both campaigns resisted calls to suspend or delay the one and only VP show-down which kicks off at 9pm Eastern Time.
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