US President Donald Trump speaks at an event on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, the US, July 16 2020. Picture: REUTERS/JONATHAN ERNST
US President Donald Trump speaks at an event on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, the US, July 16 2020. Picture: REUTERS/JONATHAN ERNST

Washington — The Republican National Committee (RNC) will hold a scaled-down version of its convention in August in Jacksonville, Florida, as cases of the coronavirus spike in the state and some officials said they would not being going out of concern for their safety.

For the first three days of the event, only party delegates will be allowed to attend. On the final day of the four-day event, when Donald Trump accepts the party’s nomination for president, the RNC will allow delegates, their guests and alternate delegates to attend, RNC chair Ronna McDaniel wrote in a letter on Thursday to members.

“We plan to utilise a number of indoor and outdoor venues in this multiblock radius of Jacksonville, including the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena, TIAA Bank Field, Daily’s Place Amphitheater, 121 Financial Ballpark, and several others,” she wrote.

The move cuts attendance to roughly 2,500, down from the tens of thousands of delegates, officials and hangers-on who usually go to conventions.

Florida has seen a surge of coronavirus cases in recent weeks. On Monday, the state announced a record previously set by New York for the most confirmed cases in a day with more than 15,300 infected. In the county that is home to Jacksonville, nearly 14,000 people have been infected as of Wednesday.

Since Iowa senator Chuck Grassley said last week that he would not attend the Republican convention, five other senators have said they also will not be going. At least eight other senators have not committed and other officials were raising concerns.

At least one swing-state delegation is delaying making any travel plans for the event that begins August 24 until they can determine if it is safe to do so, a state party official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

A smaller convention is the latest blow to Trump’s campaign aspirations. The event was originally scheduled to be held in Charlotte, North Carolina, but that state’s governor refused to commit to easing limits on crowd size and other virus mitigation. In June, Trump held his first rally in months in Tulsa, Oklahoma, but was greeted by an underwhelming crowd.

McDaniel, in her letter, said that safety measures for the convention will include temperature checks, available masks, “aggressive sanitising protocols” and Covid-19 tests.

“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 wrote.

Bloomberg