Updated on March 10 at 4:58 p.m. ET.
The first thing to go was the rope line.
Until this weekend, former Vice President Joe Biden would end his scripted rallies with a far more intimate tradition of campaign politics—by greeting his supporters personally, and physically. He’d press the flesh, high-fiving, shaking hands, leaning in close for photos with dozens, if not hundreds, of people crowded near the stage.
That ended on Saturday, when the campaign of the Democratic front-runner began taking its first, limited steps to prevent its 77-year-old candidate from contracting the coronavirus, which causes the disease known as COVID-19. Biden wasn’t exactly whisked away after speaking to a large crowd in St. Louis, but he greeted only those people who stood between him and his exit.
By last night in Detroit, an event staffer was greeting attendees lined up at the entrance to Biden’s rally in a high-school gymnasium with a squirt of hand sanitizer.
And this afternoon, Biden and his Democratic rival, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, announced within a span of minutes that they were canceling their planned rallies in Cleveland tonight ahead of the Ohio primary next week. The campaigns said the cancellations were made out of concern “for health and safety” and after consultation with local officials. The separate decisions came after Ohio’s governor, Mike DeWine, a Republican, said that public-health experts had recommended banning spectators from sporting events and concerts.