Republicans limit attendance to Jacksonville convention as coronavirus surges in Florida

"I want to make clear that we still intend to host a fantastic convention celebration in Jacksonville," RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said.
Image: Ronna McDanie
Michigan Republican Party Chairman Ronna McDaniel listens as Donald Trump speaks at a "USA Thank You Tour 2016" event at the DeltaPlex in Grand Rapids, Mich., on Dec. 9, 2016.Jabin Botsford / The Washington Post via Getty Images file

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By Allan Smith and Monica Alba

The Republican National Committee will restrict attendance at its convention in Jacksonville next month amid Florida's coronavirus spike, Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel wrote in a letter Thursday to committee members.

Admittance to convention sites will be limited to delegates over the first three days, while on the final day, when President Donald Trump delivers his acceptance speech, delegates will be able to bring one guest and alternate delegates will be able to attend, the chairwoman wrote.

McDaniel said Republicans plan to use multiple venues, both indoor and outdoor, throughout the course of the convention while implementing a series of health protocols, such as on-site temperature checks and available coronavirus testing, to deal with the pandemic, which is surging through Florida.

The restrictions, first reported by Politico, come after the RNC pulled most of the convention out of Charlotte, North Carolina, because that state's Democratic governor, Roy Cooper, was reluctant to host a full-fledged convention amid coronavirus concerns. Since then, Republicans have been met with a worsening pandemic in Florida.

"When we made these changes, we had hoped to be able to plan a traditional convention celebration to which we are all accustomed," McDaniel wrote. "However, adjustments must be made to comply with state and local health guidelines."

"I want to make clear that we still intend to host a fantastic convention celebration in Jacksonville," she added. "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."

McDaniel's letter comes as Jacksonville and the wider state of Florida has experienced record-setting COVID-19 case counts and as some Republicans say they won't be attending.

Speaking with Greta Van Susteren last week, Trump seemed more open to the idea of having a scaled-down event.

"It really depends on the timing," the president said. "Look, we’re very flexible, we can do a lot of things, but we’re very flexible."

Former Vice President Joe Biden will accept the Democratic Party's presidential nomination at a nearly all-virtual convention in Milwaukee one week before Republicans gather in Jacksonville. Delegates were told to stay home because of health concerns.