Republicans scale back convention in Jacksonville


Republicans announced Thursday they will scale back the Republican National Convention in August as coronavirus cases rise in Florida, where President Trump is expected to deliver a speech accepting his party's nomination for reelection.

Ronna Romney McDaniel, the chairwoman of the Republican National Committee (RNC), informed members of the decision in a letter on Thursday that blamed the pandemic for the changes.

The letter states that admittance to the convention in Jacksonville, Fla., will be limited only to regular delegates for the first three days, amounting to a crowd of about 2,500 people. Trump shifted the site of the celebration from North Carolina to Florida when it appeared the Jacksonville site might allow for large gatherings.

McDaniel wrote that when Trump formally accepts the GOP nomination on the event's final day, delegates will be allowed to bring one guest and alternate delegates will also be allowed to attend. That crowd would be capped at about 6,000 or 7,000 people.

McDaniel said the convention celebration will be a mix of “indoor and outdoor venues” at the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena, TIAA Bank Field, Daily’s Place Amphitheater, 121 Financial Ballpark and several others. There is programming scheduled for every night in Jacksonville between Aug. 24 and Aug. 27.

The RNC says it will “implement a variety of health protocols in order to ensure a safe event,” which includes on-site temperature checks of attendees, personal protective equipment, “aggressive” sanitizing protocols and COVID-19 testing.

“I want to make clear that we still intend to host a fantastic convention celebration in Jacksonville,” McDaniel wrote. “We can gather and put on a top-notch event that celebrates the incredible accomplishments of President Trump’s administration and his re-nomination for a second term — while also doing so in a safe and responsible manner.”

Republicans have been in a bind as they seek to balance recommendations from public health officials with Trump’s desire to move ahead with a full-scale celebration.

Republicans could not come to an agreement with North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper (D), who insisted on a scaled-back convention in Charlotte that the GOP said was impractical.

The official business for the convention will still take place in Charlotte, but the four-day celebration has been moved to Jacksonville.

News of the scaled back convention comes as Florida has emerged as a coronavirus hot spot.

There were more than 10,000 new coronavirus cases in Florida on Wednesday, pushing the state past the 300,000 mark. There were 133 reported deaths in Florida on Wednesday, a new high.

Government officials have been forced to halt some of the planned reopening of businesses across the state due to the outbreak.

“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,” McDaniel said. “We are looking forward to a fantastic week in Jacksonville as we celebrate this historic moment in the life of our nation.”

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