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Next Democratic debate to be held without an audience, DNC and CNN announce

Coronavirus causes Biden and Sanders to cancel rallies
Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden cancel rallies over coronavirus outbreak 02:15

Washington — The next Democratic debate set to take place in Phoenix, Arizona will be held without a live audience due to concerns about the spread of the coronavirus, the Democratic National Committee and CNN announced Tuesday.

"At the request of both campaigns and out of an abundance of caution, there will be no live audience at the Arizona debate taking place on Sunday, March 15th," said DNC communications director Xochitl Hinojosa in a statement. "The DNC has been in regular communication with local health officials and the mayor's office, which advised that we could proceed as planned."

Hinojosa added that the party's top priority "has and will continue to be the safety of our staff, campaigns, Arizonans and all those involved in the debate."

In addition to nixing the live audience, CNN, which is hosting the debate with Univision, said it decided to eliminate the press filing center and spin room, where candidates and campaign surrogates speak with reporters following the debate.

"CNN's top priority is the safety of our employees and community members. This extends to guests planning to attend or cover our debate on March 15," the network said in a statement.

Democratic candidates Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders are set to face off in the next Democratic debate, the eleventh of the presidential primary season.

As the coronavirus spreads throughout the U.S. and health officials across all levels of government rush to contain the deadly virus, large-scale events have been canceled or postponed. Both Sanders and Biden canceled campaign rallies in Ohio scheduled for Tuesday night after Governor Mike DeWine declared a state of emergency.

There have been more than 900 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, with patients diagnosed in 36 states and the District of Columbia. As of Tuesday, the death toll in the U.S. stood at 30.

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