- Associated Press - Friday, October 9, 2020

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) - Days before what could be her only face-to-face showdown with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Democratic challenger Amy McGrath said Friday that anyone attending their debate should be tested for COVID-19.

McGrath made the request in a letter to WKYT, the Lexington TV station 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. His campaign responded to McGrath’s request by pointing to a recent statement from the senator: “I’m unaware where Amy McGrath went to medical school, but I take my health care advice from my doctor, not my political opponent.”

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, he said.

Thomas said 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, he said. Also, plexiglass shields will be on the sides of the desks where the candidates are to be seated.

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

As an added precaution, all employees scheduled to work in WKYT’s building during the debate are being tested, he said. Also, each campaign was asked to keep its number of guests to a minimum.

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.

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