Pence safe to participate in Wednesday's election debate against Harris, CDC says

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it was safe for Vice President Mike Pence to take part in Wednesday’s vice presidential debate because he was not a close contact of anyone with COVID-19, including President Donald Trump.

Pence’s office on Tuesday tweeted a memorandum from CDC Director Robert Redfield, who said the CDC had made its determination after consulting with White House physician Dr. Jesse Schonau about Pence’s possible exposure to the disease.

Redfield said that based on its consultations with the doctor and Pence’s repeated negative tests, “the CDC concludes from a public health standpoint, it is safe for the Vice President to participate in the upcoming Vice-Presidential debate.”

Pence, 61, is scheduled on Wednesday to debate his Democratic rival, Senator Kamala Harris who is Joe Biden’s running mate.

A plexiglass barrier will separate them at the University of Utah debate. They will be more than 12 feet (3.7 m) apart on the stage, farther than the 7 feet (2 m) originally agreed on.

Trump returned to the White House on Monday after three nights at Walter Reed Medical Center where he was treated for the highly contagious disease. Pence has tested negative for COVID-19 repeatedly since Trump announced that he was infected and went into quarantine.

Redfield’s memo said a close contact was defined as a person who came within 6 feet of an infected person for at least 15 minutes starting from two days before illness onset or giving a positive specimen.

Pence was last seen publicly with Trump on Monday at a Rose Garden news conference on coronavirus testing. The two men arrived at the event together, but spoke at separate lecterns; neither wore a mask.

Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Leslie Adler and Cynthia Osterman