Big Changes in Store for the Republican National Convention?
Credit: YAY Media AS/Alamy

Big Changes in Store for the Republican National Convention?

Last week, Election Central examined how the COVID-19 pandemic will affect the Democratic National Convention, which will be held in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in August. While plans haven’t yet been finalized, the DNC postponed the event by a month, and plans to scale back its huge convention by switching to a smaller venue and holding most events remotely. The Republican National Convention may also have to make several adjustments considering the pandemic. Here, Election Central looks at what steps the Republican National Committee (RNC) might take to keep its delegates safe.

A Dispute Over Safety

As you may recall, the Republican National Convention was originally supposed to be held in Charlotte, North Carolina. But the RNC and the city of Charlotte had trouble reaching a consensus over the planning and conduct of the event. President Trump (who is the presumed Republican nominee) wanted a traditional, in-person convention without masks or social distancing measures. But Democratic governor  of North Carolina, Roy Cooper didn’t agree. Because of this dispute, the RNC relocated the event to Jacksonville, Florida.

Since then, however, the Jacksonville area has seen a serious spike in people testing positive for COVID-19. In fact, Duval County, Florida, has regularly experienced record numbers of new cases. As a result, Jacksonville is now requiring everyone over the age of six to wear masks indoors and in all public spaces. Up until now, the Mayor of Jacksonville, Republican Lenny Curry, has been against a mask requirement (though he wears one himself at public events). But hundreds of doctors wrote letters to the Mayor and to Jacksonville City Council, urging members to make mask wearing mandatory.

How Will This Impact the Convention?

The impact of the new regulations on the Republican National Convention, which is just seven weeks away, remains unclear. Given that Republicans relocated the convention from Charlotte because they wanted to avoid limited attendance and mask requirements, or social distancing, there may be problems in Jacksonville as well. But the city of Jacksonville has already said that anyone who shows up at the convention without a mask will be turned away.

Currently, according to the Republican National Committee (RNC), roughly 40,000 people are expected to arrive in Jacksonville because of the event. The convention itself will be held at the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena, which holds 15,000 people. Though the RNC has not yet suggested limiting crowd size, spokespersons have indicated that there will likely be health precautions in place such as temperature checks, personal protective equipment/masks distribution, increased sanitation practices, and available COVID-19 testing. The president himself does not wear a mask in public. At recent Trump rallies masks are offered to all attendees, though no one is required to wear one.

Dig Deeper Use Internet resources to locate coronavirus information for Duval County, Florida. What is the average number of new cases per day? How has that number changed over the past two weeks? If you were a public official in Jacksonville, how would you feel about the Republican National Convention taking place in your city in August? What benefits could there be for hosting the event? How might those benefits weigh against the negatives?
Valerie Cumming


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