Practical Considerations about COVID-19 and the 2020 Election

March 3, 2020 12:36 p.m.
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There are a series of questions and contingencies we need to be considering about the 2020 election campaign. These aren’t about how the Coronavirus outbreak will affect the outcome of the campaign per se – who could be helped or hurt electorally. It’s about the mechanics of the campaign itself.

Let us assume (and hope) that we have a better than worse outcome to this pandemic in the United States. Still, it seems entirely possible that it won’t be advisable to hold big party conventions in the late summer of this year. Consider it: Tens of thousands of people coming together and spending several days in one arena and various parties for four or five days. Also, those two events include most of the senior elected officials in the whole country.

Again, we don’t have to imagine catastrophic pandemic outcomes to think that there will be advisories to avoid or cancel big meetings and conferences like that. It’s already happening. A whole string of major industry conferences happening now or in the near future have already been canceled.

Even if that doesn’t happen, you likely have major issues of non-attendance.

Consider another issue. Politics – especially in the US but really around the world – is focused on gathering big groups of people in small confined spaces. Part of the excitement of politics and the ability to demonstrate success is doing just that: creating overflow crowds. Again, you don’t have to imagine catastrophic outcomes to think we will be being advised not to do that or possibly even being banned from doing so. Certainly you could have major issues of non-attendance.

A final point: At the moment there are three or possibly four people who seem at all possible to be on the ballot in November: Donald Trump, Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders and maybe Mike Bloomberg, though he seems increasingly unlikely. Each of those men would be considered high risk or at least elevated risk Coronavirus infections based on their age and pre-existing medical conditions.

This last point is hypothetical. The first two really aren’t.

The only operative issue is the conventions. Campaigns can start canceling rallies whenever public authorities give the word. It would certainly be premature to cancel the conventions or reorganize them now. But again, for people who are involved in politics and ones who are focused on how this election season will go, these are points to consider and plan for now.

Key Coronavirus Crisis Links

Josh Marshall’s Twitter List of Trusted Experts (Epidemiologists, Researchers, Clinicians, Journalists, Government Agencies) providing reliable real-time information on the COVID-19 Crisis.

COVID-19 Tracking Project (updated data on testing and infections in the U.S.).

IHME Projections Site (COVID-19 epidemic model which has become the canonical model for many states and hospitals.)

Johns Hopkins Global COVID-19 Survey (most up to date numbers globally and for countries around the world). (extensive source of information and data visualizations on COVID-19 Crisis — discussion of data here).

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