In April, Election Central took a look at the ways that the global COVID-19 pandemic might impact the 2020 Democratic National Convention to be held in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. What precautions would need to be taken? Would it be possible to hold the convention at all? Now, the Democratic National Committee, or DNC, has finally announced its 2020 convention plans. Though the convention will still go on in person, a lot will be different from previous years.
The Democratic National Convention, held every four years, is where the Democratic Party chooses its presidential and vice-presidential candidates. (The Republican Party holds a national convention every four years as well.) The convention is also a celebration, an opportunity for the party to re-unify after primary season and come together behind a common political platform. Finally, the convention is viewed as the official kick-off of the general election season, and is a way to excite and motivate people about the chosen candidate’s campaign for the White House.
Usually, both parties’ conventions are huge events, attended by thousands of party delegates, party members, and lots of media. But fears about COVID-19 have changed all of that. The first thing that the DNC did was delay the convention as long as possible. It was originally scheduled for the week of July 13, but it will now take place the week of August 17. Moreover, rather than coming to Wisconsin in person, state delegations are being asked to stay at home and to participate virtually. All official parties and events associated with the convention have been cancelled. As a result, the location of the convention will move from its original venue, Milwaukee’s 17,000-seat professional basketball arena (the Fiserv Forum), to the city’s Convention Center, the Wisconsin Center. Joe Biden, who is believed to be the nominee, is still expected to accept the nomination in person. But it is unclear if delegates or even journalists will be allowed in the Wisconsin Center.
So if no one will be there in person, what will happen during the four-day-long event? Most of it will be held virtually, with broadcasts from Milwaukee and other cities around the country.
Two disease specialists–W. Ian Lipkin from Columbia University, and Larr Brilliant, who helped fight the smallpox disease–have been hired by the DNC to advise organizers about what health precautions are needed to prevent the possible spread of COVID-19 for those who do attend the convention in person. It remains unclear what social distancing rules will be in effect. The number of U.S. coronavirus infections hit an all-time high last week, and Milwaukee County has the highest rate of infection in Wisconsin. A survey taken last month indicates that, because of this, most DNC members did not want to participate in an in-person convention.