President Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden discussed racial tensions, healthcare and climate change in the final debate ahead of the November election which took place at Belmont University in Nashville, TN on Oct. 22.

This debate, moderated by NBC’s Kristen Welker, was organized differently than past debates to increase COVID-19 precautions and avoid the disorder that became the hallmark of the first debate.

After a previous debate scheduled for Oct. 15th was cancelled by The Commision of Presidential Debates after Trump refused a virtual event in light of his coronavirus diagnosis, the two candidates had many topics to cover as Election Day rapidly approaches.

Check out some of the top takeaways from the debate below:


1. Coronavirus

The debate started off with the topic of the coronavirus pandemic in which the candidates were asked about their proposed strategies during the next stages of the virus.

Trump responded first, claiming that a vaccine will be announced “within weeks” and distributed by the military via Operation Warp Speed. According to the New York Times' fact-checking analysis, this claim lacks evidence. He then offered a personal testimony to the new treatment drugs and attributed his recovery to them saying he is now immune. Trump continued on to say that the virus is going away and that “we are rounding the turn” which was also said to be false by the New York Times analysis, as data indicates that we are now in a third surge of the virus in the U.S.

Biden responded by pointing out that over 220,000 Americans died from the coronavirus, with numbers still rising, which New York Times analysis says is true. Biden also repeatedly stated that President Trump has no plan to enforce regulations going forward.

The two candidates appear to have opposing plans for taking control of the pandemic. During the debate, Trump’s responses were in line with his past responses that have dismissed the severity of disease.

“We’re learning to live with it,” he said on Thursday.

Biden countered, “He says that we’re learning to live with it. People are learning to die with it.”

Biden’s campaign has a plan including mandating wearing masks, rapid testing, and a national plan using financial resources to help schools and businesses open.


2. Changes to debate rules

For the first time in American history, the final presidential debate between Trump and Biden featured muted microphones, to keep the candidates from interrupting each other. This comes after the first presidential debate, where the candidates were criticized for repeatedly interrupting and berating each other. The muting strategy seemed to have worked, and many viewers noted how much more civil this debate was than the previous one.

However, some audience members were saddened that such a drastic step had to be made. Julia Orozco, a senior public policy student at USC, says she was surprised at the decision to mute candidates when not speaking.

“It’s so depressing that we’re changing the debate rules because our presidential candidates can’t have a civil conversation,” she said.

Although the addition of muted microphones is unusual, it helped create a more civil atmosphere. This allowed viewers to better understand each candidate’s policies without interruption.


3. Race in America

With the resurgence of Black Lives Matter protests across America, race was a hot button issue. When introduced, Trump was quick to assert that he was not who he felt the media made him out to be.

“As far as my relationships with all people, I think I have great relationships with all people,” said Trump. “I am the least racist person in this room.”

When asked by the moderator how he would respond to Americans who are concerned about that rhetoric, Trump said “I don’t know what to say.”

Biden responded by saying “[Trump] pours fuel on every single racist fire. Every single one. He started his campaign coming down that escalator and saying he’s going to get rid of those Mexican racists. He banned Muslims because they are Muslims. He has moved around and made every single thing worse.”


4. Climate Change

For the first time in presidential history, climate change became a significant topic in the 2020 debates. Biden’s plan to “transition away from the oil industry” raised questions of the nation’s ability to do so without immense economic fallout.

President Trump responded to Biden’s statements by appealing to states that rely heavily on the oil industry to maintain their economies with the question “Will you remember that, Texas? Will you remember that, Pennsylvania, Oklahoma?”

In stark contrast to the argumentative tone of the previous debate, both candidates used the tactic of speaking directly to voters.

Questions of Biden’s opposition to fracking came about, much like it did during the vice presidential debate on Oct. 7, prompting Biden’s false claim that he never opposed oil fracking, according to CNN.

“You said it on tape,” Trump replied.

In 2019, Biden said “we would make sure it’s eliminated” when asked about the future of coal mining and fracking. Earlier this year he claimed he was against “new fracking”.

Biden and Trump were also asked to comment on environmental justice issues, referring to the disproportionate effects of climate change on marginalized groups, highlighting climate change’s transition from a debate topic of speculation to one of serious fact.


5. How will the election affect the USC community?

The 2020 election will have widespread effects that may have disparate impacts on marginalized communities at USC. Orozco says she believes that students of color and other disenfranchised students will be affected the most by the upcoming election.

“I definitely think that the Black and brown, Muslim, and most LGBTQ+ [students] will be affected, but I feel like they’re very overlooked when looking at the USC community,” she said. “I feel like their plight won’t be paid as much attention to by others [in the USC community].”

With Nov. 3 rapidly approaching, students can make sure they have their voices heard by voting. To find out more about your state’s election, head to vote.org to learn more.