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Facebook and Fox News hosting virtual town hall on coronavirus pandemic using Portal devices

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Facebook is shipping a Portal Plus to every attendee

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Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

Facebook and Fox News will be hosting a virtual town hall tomorrow at 7PM ET about the coronavirus pandemic using Facebook’s Portal video-calling devices, the two companies announced today.

To allow people to participate virtually, Facebook is shipping a Portal Plus device to every audience member so they can attend the town hall and ask questions of the speakers. Approximately 30 people will attend the town hall, but not all of them will be participating at the same time, so the number of people connected to the town hall at any given moment via Portal will vary, Facebook tells The Verge. If a Portal call is made using Messenger, a total of eight people can be on the call at the same time, according to a Facebook support page.

The town hall is being hosted virtually to allow participants to practice social distancing and respect orders to remain at home, which can help prevent the spread of COVID-19, the illness caused by the novel coronavirus.

The town hall will be moderated by Martha MacCallum, host of Fox News’ show The Story, and she will be broadcasting from Fox News’ New York City studio, Fox News tells The Verge. The town hall will feature “medical and business experts, including White House coronavirus task force members Dr. Deborah Birx and Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams,” according to a press release issued by Fox News. The White House coronavirus task force members will appear on the town hall from a broadcast studio in Washington, DC, according to Fox News. Mike Rowe will also appear via Portal for a segment, according to Facebook.

The one-hour town hall will be broadcast on Fox News and live streamed on Fox News’ Facebook page, Fox’s news hub, Fox’s CoronavirusNOW channel on Samsung TV Plus, and on all Fox TV stations’ websites, Facebook pages and apps.

Update, April 1st, 10:15PM ET: Added context provided by Facebook and Fox News after the original publication of this story about how many participants will be participating in the town hall at any given time, where the MacCallum and White House coronavirus task force members will be broadcasting from, and that Fox News will also be broadcasting the town hall.