GOP bows, modestly, to COVID concerns in planning Jacksonville party convention

TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville, one of the venues planned for the Republican National Convention in August. Credit: Excel23 via Wikimedia Commons.

With COVID-19 infections in Florida now surpassing 315,000, planners for the Republican National Convention will move some of the activities outdoors, into the heat of a North Florida late August.

“We plan to utilize a number of indoor and outdoor venues in this multi-block radius of Jacksonville, Including the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena, TIAA Bank Field, Daily’s Place Amphitheater, 212 Financial Ballpark, and several others,” Republican National Committee chairwoman Ronna McDaniel wrote in a letter to delegates.

McDaniel’s letter says attendance will be limited during the first three days to regular delegates, although delegates’ guests and alternate delegates will be welcome for Trump’s speech.

“We expect there to be evening programming each night, along with some daytime events and festivities,” she wrote.

News organizations including The Washington Post reported on the details Thursday. The letter says nothing about any requirement to wear face masks.

Gov. Ron DeSantis leapt to volunteer Florida as a venue when the North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper resisted President Trump’s insistence on packing delegates and camp followers into a traditional convention at the original site, Charlotte, notwithstanding the COVID pandemic.

Even as Florida’s caseload rose inexorably, DeSantis kept insisting, “I think we’ll be fine” by the time the convention opens on Aug. 24. It is scheduled to run through Aug. 27, when Trump will address the delegates.

As of Thursday, the state had seen positive coronavirus test results rise to 315,775, including 13,965 results that came in Wednesday, according to the Florida Department of Health. Deaths that day numbered 156, bringing total deaths to 4,677.

The governor’s assurances didn’t completely salve concerns in the Jacksonville area, and the planned event even drew a public nuisance lawsuit alleging a threat to public health. See this report by broadcaster News4Jax.