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Harris vs. Pence: Vice presidential debate updates and analysis

Wednesday's vice presidential debate comes less than a week after Trump announced he had tested positive for Covid-19.

Vice President Mike Pence and Sen. Kamala Harris faced off in a heated debate Wednesday night, their first and only matchup.

The 90-minute debate started shortly after 9 p.m. ET at the University of Utah's Kingsbury Hall in Salt Lake City.

This live coverage has ended. Continue reading more on the debate here.

The coronavirus pandemic was a prominent topic at the debate, which came less than a week after President Donald Trump was diagnosed with Covid-19. As head of the White House coronavirus task force, Pence has faced criticism over the administration's response to the pandemic.

Read highlights from the debate, including fact-checks, takeaways and who some experts think won.

Pence dodges question about any agreement with Trump on issue of presidential disability

Moderator Susan Page asked Pence if he has had a conversation or reached an agreement with Trump about “safeguards or procedures” when it comes to the issue of presidential disability given Trump’s age.

Pence did not answer the question and immediately came back to the coronavirus and the Trump administration’s response to the pandemic.

Trump's not on stage, but the president is coming up a lot

Are the candidates staying on topic? We're tracking that, too. Follow along

What's a superspreader event?

The second question of the night has already hit on a major issue with the coronavirus pandemic: superspreader events

The question came in relation to the White House event — the ceremony to formally announce the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court — that is now seen as one of the reasons numerous Republicans have been infected. These events are the focus of research by scientists who are finding that such events can have an outsize role in the spread of the coronavirus.

Pence tries to interrupt Harris; she shoots him down

As Harris continued to respond to Pence’s answer defending his leadership on the coronavirus task force, the vice president tried to interrupt her, but she immediately shot him down.

“Mr. Vice President. I’m speaking. I’m speaking,” Harris said. 

Out of the gate, Harris, Pence spar over Trump coronavirus response

It’s unsurprising that the first question was about Covid-19 as the White House continues to reel from an outbreak that has infected several top aides and the president and the first lady. 

Pence, as head of the coronavirus task force, has been sharply criticized for the administration’s response. Harris was asked what a Biden administration would do, and immediately excoriated the administration for the more than 210,000 dead from the virus and the impact on the economy. 

Harris’ answer was direct, even briefly staring over at Pence and directly at the camera, as she listed what she said were the failures of the administration. She called the administration's response, “The greatest failure of any presidential administration in the history of our country.” 

Pence defended the response, pointing to the improvement in testing and the mobilization of the private sector to help respond to the virus. He also accused the Biden plan of being the same as the Trump administration's plan, calling it “plagiarism.”

Susan Page says she’s there to enforce strict debate rules

Moderator Susan Page says that she was put in place to strictly enforce the ground rules Wednesday on behalf of the debate commission. This comes after Trump broke numerous rules during his presidential debate against Biden last week.

What will the interruptions look like tonight? We're tracking

Candidates’ families wearing masks in audience

Members of both candidates’ families are all wearing masks in the audience in front of the debate stage. 

Pence’s wife, Karen, and their other family members were seen wearing face coverings in the audience, a requirement that was strictly enforced Wednesday. This comes after President Trump’s family did not wear masks at the presidential debate in Cleveland last week. 

The socially distant debate audience

Audience members sit spaced out for social distancing as they wait to watch Kamala Harris and Mike Pence debate in Salt Lake City. Brian Snyder / Reuters
Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez waits in the audience. Brian Snyder / Reuters

Disposable pink masks abound at the venue

Guests have started to file in and take their seats. Everyone — staffers, guests, reporters and crews — are wearing the provided disposable pink masks.

At least three of Vice President Mike Pence’s guests are seated in the orchestra level, including Ann Dorn, the wife of a retired police officer who was killed amid recent unrest in St.  Louis. (Dorn also spoke at the virtual Republican National Convention.)

The debate commission has made clear that anyone not wearing a mask tonight will be escorted out.

A departure from last week’s presidential debate in Cleveland: There are only about 20 seats on the floor — all socially distanced. A crowd of about a hundred people are seated in the balcony, several seats  spaced between them.

The plexiglass on stage doesn’t appear to be more than 5 feet tall. Both panels are secured to the floor. Workers have been taking turns polishing them all afternoon.