Virus disrupts White House race as Sanders, Biden cancel rallies

Bernie Sanders (left) and Joe Biden’s rallies are first major US political events called off due to outbreak. (AP pic)

WASHINGTON: Democratic presidential hopefuls Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden both cancelled their election night rallies in Cleveland, Ohio Tuesday as fears of the coronavirus took hold in their taut primary battle.

They were the first major US political events called off due to the virus, which has now infected more than 800 Americans across the country and left 28 dead.

“Out of concern for public health and safety, we are cancelling tonight’s rally in Cleveland,” the Sanders campaign said in a statement.

“We are heeding the public warnings from Ohio state officials, who have communicated concern about holding large, indoor events during the coronavirus outbreak.”

Biden’s campaign repeated the same concerns, adding: “We will continue to consult with public health officials and public health guidance and make announcements about future events in the coming days.”

The announcements underscored the rising concerns over the virus’s potential impact on the Democratic primary showdown, which has nearly three more months to run.

They came as voters in six states were casting ballots Tuesday on who they want to represent the Democratic Party against President Donald Trump in November’s presidential election.

On Monday Ohio governor Mike DeWine declared a state of emergency as three people tested positive for the Covid-19 virus.

A key battleground for Biden and Sanders, the state will hold primary votes on March 17.