When the second presidential debate, scheduled for October 15 in Miami, was canceled, all eyes turned to Belmont as the final host site. Determined to offer a safe and seamless event, the University dug deep to complete preparations and to demonstrate true Southern hospitality as the media, campaigns and candidates began to descend on campus.

Setting the Stage

On October 16, less than a week before Belmont was slated to host the debate, Dr. Fisher greeted media and Tennessee Governor Bill Lee offered a video welcome at a press conference with city officials to share information on plans related to security and safety. Nashville Mayor John Cooper joined leaders from Metro Police, Nashville Public Health, U.S. Secret Service, Nashville Fire, HCA Healthcare and the Nashville Convention & Visitors Corp. to discuss the coming week’s event.

“Belmont is a world class institution, and it is no stranger to hosting prominent events for a global audience,” said Mayor Cooper. “At its best a presidential debate is an opportunity for a lively, civil discourse in which the American people can hear from our candidates about the kind of leadership we should expect from the highest office in the land… Belmont and the city of Nashville have set the stage for an enlightening and informative conversation, one that will be worthy of the American people.”

The media event concluded with staff and student volunteers leading members of the press on a tour of campus debate sites and offering interviews and input on all the work being done behind the scenes.

Debate 2020 Hatch Show prints

Phil Ponder puts final touches on Debate print.

Downtown signage greeted Debate visitors and Nashville tourists.


volunteer hours

were contributed by
HCA Healthcare volunteers

2,000 COVID-19 tests

were conducted at
HCA Healthcare across

7 days

HCA Healthcare Heroes:
Helping to Mitigate COVID-19 Risks

Hosting a presidential debate in 2020 brought unprecedented challenges as the planning that began more than a year ago required significant alterations due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Locally, HCA Healthcare and the Nashville Public Health Department stepped up to join global debate health advisor Cleveland Clinic to consult with the University on needed health and safety protocols.

Debate guests and volunteers were required to be tested for COVID-19 at an offsite HCA Healthcare location. Upon receiving a negative result, individuals were issued color-coded wristbands that would allow them to work within the debate perimeter for three days. Other safety measures included limiting the numbers of reporters allowed in every area, requiring mask wearing at all times, promoting social distancing and encouraging good hygiene with ample hand sanitizing stations throughout the grounds. In addition, thermal temperature cameras and thermometers were used as part of health screenings prior to entry at each debate location.

“We were proud to collaborate with Belmont University by implementing the health and safety protocols that contributed to the success of the final Presidential Debate,” said Dr. Jonathan Perlin, chief medical officer and president, clinical operations group of HCA Healthcare. “Nearly 600 HCA Healthcare colleagues volunteered their time the day of and week leading up to the debate to help with screening, scheduling appointments, registration, lab testing and wayfinding to keep everyone safe at the historic event.”