Democratic U.S. presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders is accompanied by his relatives, including his wife Jane, as he addresses supporters at his Super Tuesday night rally in Essex Junction, Vermont, U.S., March 3, 2020
Caitlin Ochs | Reuters
Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden’s presidential campaigns canceled rallies set for Cleveland on Tuesday night due to coronavirus concerns, the first disruptions the outbreak has caused in the 2020 Democratic primary.
In separate announcements, the Democratic presidential contenders’ campaigns said they exercised caution about holding large public gatherings after hearing guidance from public health officials. Both the Sanders and Biden campaigns thanked supporters who planned to attend the events on a crucial day in the race to decide who faces President Donald Trump in November.
In a statement, Sanders communications director Mike Casca said the Vermont senator’s campaign will evaluate future events “on a case by case basis.”
Biden communications director Kate Bedingfield said the campaign will “make announcements about future events in the coming days.” The Democratic front-runner plans to deliver remarks at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia at 9:30 p.m. ET.
Asked Tuesday about Trump’s plans for future rallies, Vice President Mike Pence said the campaign would make decisions “literally on a day to day basis.” He added that he is confident the campaign “will take the very best information and make the very best decision going forward.”
The cancellations come at a pivotal time for the rivals jockeying for position in the Democratic primary. Six states, including crucial Michigan, hold presidential nominating contests on Tuesday as Biden tries to amass enough delegates to pull the Democratic nomination out of Sanders’ reach.
Ohio, which awards a significant 136 pledged delegates, votes next week.
Questions have swirled about when the outbreak would affect a closely watched and consequential Democratic primary. Mass gatherings where the virus could spread make up a core part of Sanders’ strategy. Biden relies less on rallies than his rival.
Washington state, one of the areas in the U.S. most affected by the outbreak, holds its primary on Tuesday. While voters cast ballots by mail and will not physically go to the polls and risk spreading coronavirus, the state told voters not to lick envelopes.
At least 808 people in the U.S. have been infected with the virus, and at least 28 have died from it, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.