As states struggle to contain the coronavirus outbreak that’s killed nearly 100,000 Americans, President Donald Trump threatened to move the Republican National Convention from Charlotte, North Carolina, if there is a chance the venue might not be filled there later this summer due to virus-related restrictions.
“Unfortunately, Democrat Governor, [Roy Cooper] is still in Shutdown mood & unable to guarantee that by August we will be allowed full attendance in the Arena,” Trump said in a string of tweets, adding that a decision must be made now because the preparations cost millions of dollars and supporters needed to be able to make their travel plans now.
“If not, we will be reluctantly forced to find, with all of the jobs and economic development it brings, another Republican National Convention site," he said.
The convention is currently scheduled for Aug. 24-27, in Charlotte, North Carolina, a state which recently reported its highest number of new cases in a single day. North Carolina entered the second phase of its reopening Friday, but gatherings of groups over 10 people indoors, and 25 people outdoors, are still prohibited.
Just last week, the Republican National Committee touted it was planning for an event that would gather 50,000 people, despite warnings from health officials about the risks of mass gatherings.
A committee official echoed the president’s tweets. “The RNC wants to hold a full in-person convention in Charlotte, but we need the governor to provide assurances that it can occur. We will need some answers sooner rather than later, or we will be forced to consider other options,” the official said in a statement.
While that is their public posture, NBC News last month was the first to report details on what Republican officials and those close to the president have been saying privately: that alterations were possible, and a backup plan and contingencies would be needed to host a massive gathering amid the coronavirus crisis.
The Democratic National Committee already pushed back its Milwaukee, Wisconsin, convention from mid-July to mid-August due to coronavirus concerns. The committee has left open the possibility that parts of the event will be held virtually, though officials say they expect a portion of the event to be held in-person.
Meanwhile, in Washington, the president has sought to downplay the growing threat of the coronavirus and has claimed that the worst has passed, even as his own experts remind Americans that the virus is "not yet contained."
"With the country starting to open up this holiday weekend, I again remind everyone that the coronavirus is not yet contained. It is up to every individual to protect themselves and their community," Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn tweeted this weekend.
The president’s son Eric Trump recently argued that Democrats were using the virus to keep his father from campaigning.
“After Nov. 3, coronavirus will magically go away and disappear and everything will open,” he said on Fox.