Coronavirus Concerns Lead to Scaled Down Republican National Convention in Jacksonville

The Republican National Committee holds a media walkthrough for the 2020 Republican National Convention that will be held from August 24-27, 2020 in Charlotte, North Carolina, November 12, 2019. (Jim Bourg/Reuters)

A pared-down Republican National Convention will be held in Jacksonville, Fla., next month in a number of outdoor and indoor settings in order to mitigate the spread of coronavirus and comply with Florida’s rules, according to a letter sent by Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel to delegates Thursday.

Admittance will be restricted to regular delegates — around 2,500 people — for the first three days of the convention, according to the letter, obtained by the Washington Post. When President Trump attends on the final day, delegates will get a guest, and alternate delegates can also attend. Roughly 6,000 to 7,000 people are expected to attend.

The convention will take place in several venues, both indoor and outdoor, including VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena, TIAA Bank Field, Daily’s Place Amphitheater, 121 Financial Ballpark and several others to comply with Florida rules.

“When we made these changes, we had hoped to be able to plan a traditional convention celebration to which we are all accustomed. However, adjustments must be made to comply with state and local health guidelines,” she said.

The convention will spend one day in its original Charlotte, N.C. location before moving to Jacksonville. The move was prompted by North Carolina officials’ reluctance to ensure that President Trump would be able to accept his nomination in a packed arena. However, Florida has seen case numbers spike recently, causing local officials in the state to consider additional shutdowns to slow the virus’ spread. It is unclear how potential shutdowns could affect the convention. 

“It’s irresponsible,” Jacksonville City Councilman Garrett L. Dennis, a Democrat, told the Post last month of the RNC’s decision to hold the convention in the city. “It will increase the number of COVID infections and put the locals at risk.”

While Democrats have moved to hold an increasingly virtual convention, asking state delegations not to travel to Milwaukee and downsizing its venue, McDaniel and Trump have continued to push for an in-person convention as the Post reported some of the president’s advisors view the convention as critical to regaining lost ground as Trump lags behind the presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden in recent polls.

McDaniel’s letter says the convention plans “to implement a variety of health protocols in order to ensure a safe event. This plan includes but is not limited to on-site temperature checks, available PPE, aggressive sanitizing protocols, and available COVID-19 testing.”

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