RNC announces scaled-back convention in Florida next month

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Washington — The Republican Party is significantly scaling down its convention in Jacksonville, Florida, next month due to concerns about the coronavirus pandemic, Republican National Committee (RNC) Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel announced in a letter sent to delegates on Thursday.

“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,” McDaniel said in the letter, a copy of which was provided to CBS News. The letter was first reported by the Washington Post.

McDaniel said the convention will still take place from August 24 through August 27, but attendance at the first three days of the event will be limited to delegates only. Each delegate, their guests and alternate delegates will be able to attend the convention on August 27, when President Trump will formally accept the Republican nomination. McDaniel also said that the convention will “utilize a number of indoor and outdoor venues” in Jacksonville for the event.

“We plan 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,” McDaniel wrote. 


She did not say whether wearing facial coverings will be urged or required, although Jacksonville issued a mandate requiring the use of masks in public spaces at the end of June. At the president’s campaign rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, last month, masks were provided to attendees but were not mandatory. Wearing a mask has become a sharply politicized action, and Mr. Trump has rarely been seen wearing facial coverings in public.

“I want to reiterate that the RNC is working around the clock to ensure the convention celebration in Jacksonville is still an exciting, premier event. We are looking forward to a fantastic week in Jacksonville as we celebrate this historic moment in the life of our nation,” McDaniel said.

The RNC announced the convention would be moved to Jacksonville from Charlotte last month, after North Carolina’s Democratic Governor Roy Cooper would not promise to allow the 19,000 delegates and attendees into the Spectrum Arena for the celebration. Although the formal business of the convention will still take place in Charlotte, the events typically associated with conventions, such as Mr. Trump’s acceptance of the nomination, will be in Florida.

Florida has seen a surge in coronavirus cases in recent weeks, raising concerns about the safety of the gathering. A growing number of Republican lawmakers have said they will not attend the event.

Vice President Mike Pence told reporters on Thursday that the convention is “a work in progress.”

“The president has indicated we will be flexible. We will continue to consult with Mayor Curry and other local health officials and Governor DeSantis as we move forward,” Pence said, referring to the mayor of Jacksonville and the governor of Florida.

Florida surpassed 300,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus on Wednesday, according to data collected by Johns Hopkins University.

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