Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) suggested he’s not certain about attending next month’s Republican National Convention in Florida due to the coronavirus.
“It’s a challenging situation and a number of my colleagues announced that they’re not going to attend, and we’ll have to wait and see how things look in late August to determine whether or not you can safely convene that many people,” McConnell told the Cincinnati Enquirer on Thursday when asked whether he planned to go.
In recent weeks, McConnell, who is 78, has become one of the GOP’s loudest cheerleaders for wearing a mask, even as President Donald Trump continues to not wear one.
The GOP convention, where the president will formally accept his party’s nomination for a second term, is slated to be held in the city of Jacksonville in late August. The event was initially supposed to take place in Charlotte, North Carolina, but Republicans moved it after local officials refused to relax social distancing measures aimed at curbing the spread of the coronavirus.
Several Republican senators have already announced they will not attend the convention, citing health risks and prior commitments in their states.
“I’m not going to go. And I’m not going to go because of the virus situation,” Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), who is 86, told reporters on Monday, per The Des Moines Register.
Other senators skipping the event include Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, Mitt Romney of Utah, and Pat Roberts of Kansas. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin has said he is unsure about attending the convention.
The health risks could give additional Republican senators facing tough reelection fights in November an excuse to skip the event and its association with a historically unpopular president.
Republicans are reportedly looking into moving the Jacksonville event to an outdoor stadium as COVID-19 cases and deaths keep rising in Florida, according to The Washington Post. The Sunshine State has emerged as a new world epicenter for the disease, breaking daily records in infections and hospitalizations.
A health official in Tulsa, Oklahoma, said earlier this week that Trump’s bungled campaign rally in the city last month “more than likely contributed” to a spike in coronavirus cases in the area. Most of the attendees at the rally did not wear masks or socially distance.
“In the past few days, we’ve seen almost 500 new cases, and we had several large events just over two weeks ago, so I guess we just connect the dots,” Dr. Bruce Dart, director of the Tulsa City-County Health Department, told reporters on Wednesday.