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McConnell weighs in on McGrath’s pre-debate COVID test request

Campaign asked for anyone attending Monday’s debate be tested ahead of time
Campaign asked for anyone attending Monday’s debate be tested ahead of time
Published: Oct. 9, 2020 at 8:05 PM EDT|Updated: Oct. 10, 2020 at 12:05 PM EDT
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LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP/WKYT) - Days before what could be their only face-to-face showdown, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called Democratic challenger Amy McGrath’s request that anyone attending their debate be tested for COVID-19 a tactic to avoid debating him.

“Never in the history of Kentucky politics has one candidate worked harder to avoid a debate than Amy McGrath,” McConnell said. “From demanding other candidates accompany her on the stage to making ultimatums about the gender of the moderator, it has been truly bizarre to watch the McGrath campaign continue to find excuses not to debate.”

McGrath made the request in a letter to WKYT where she and the Republican senator are scheduled to debate Monday evening. McGrath said the test results should be provided to the station ahead of time to ensure the safety of everyone involved.

“Sen. McConnell has a duty to Kentuckians to keep them safe and set an example on following CDC guidelines,” she said in a statement.

When asked recently whether he’s undergone COVID tests, McConnell has consistently said he’s following CDC guidelines.

“Unlike my opponent, I have followed CDC guidelines entirely, adhered to my physician’s advice regarding testing, and have never exhibited any symptoms during the COVID pandemic,” McConnell said Saturday in a statement.

McConnell has steadfastly called on people to wear masks and socially distance to contain the spread of the virus.

The debate — their first faceoff of the campaign — will be aired on Gray Television’s Kentucky-based stations. It comes near the end of a campaign that has been waged in distance, with the two sparring in hard-edged TV ads. McConnell has consistently led in polling in the big-spending race.

WKYT news director Robert Thomas on Friday outlined precautions being taken for the debate.

  • Gray Television and WKYT have followed CDC and state public health guidance on COVID-19 safety protocols since the pandemic began.
  • Anyone entering a Gray facility must be free of COVID-19 symptoms for at least 10 days and will have their temperature taken at the door.
  • During the debate, only the moderator and candidates will be in the studio, which uses robotic cameras, Thomas said. They will be at least 20 feet from one another and plexiglass shields will be on the sides of the desks where the candidates are to be seated.
  • As an added precaution, all employees scheduled to work in WKYT’s building during the debate are being tested.
  • Also, each campaign was asked to keep its number of guests to a minimum.

“Naturally, if the candidates agree to additional safety protocols, we will abide by those as well,” Thomas said in a statement.

Kentucky has been hit by another surge of coronavirus cases in recent weeks.

The pandemic disrupted another high-stakes Senate race on Friday. Hours before a second scheduled debate in South Carolina between U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham and Democratic challenger Jaime Harrison, event organizers changed the format to back-to-back, one-on-one interviews. The switch came after Harrison challenged Graham to take a COVID-19 test and the senator refused.