President Donald Trump announced Thursday that the portion of the Republican National Convention that had been scheduled to take place in Jacksonville, Florida, has been canceled over concerns about the coronavirus.
Trump said during a press briefing that “it’s not the right time” for such a large-scale event. The president had earlier pushed for the convention to be held in Jacksonville after officials in North Carolina, the RNC’s original host, refused to relax social-distancing restrictions for the event.
The GOP said last month that several of the RNC’s marquee events, including Trump’s speech, would be moved from Charlotte, North Carolina, to Jacksonville. Tens of thousands of people had been expected to attend.
Trump noted that while the Jacksonville events would be canceled, delegates are still expected to gather in Charlotte on a single day in August to officially nominate the party’s candidates for president and vice president.
Trump added that he would deliver a convention speech “in a different form,” though he didn’t specify where or when that would occur. He also said “tele-rallies” and other activities would be held in the days leading up to the RNC.
The Jacksonville news comes a week after the Republican National Committee announced plans to scale down convention events in the city — and days after Jacksonville officials expressed “significant concerns with the viability of the event.”
“I cannot say with confidence that this event and our community will not be at risk,” said Sheriff Mike Williams of Duval County, of which Jacksonville is the seat, in a statement Monday.
Williams stressed the inadequacy of the convention’s existing security plan and available resources. Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry, a long-serving GOP official, later said he agreed with the sheriff’s assessment, saying he concurred with Williams’ position that “we are not prepared for this right now.”
The Republican Party of Duval County said in a statement Thursday that Trump had done “what is best for the people of Jacksonville” with his decision to cancel convention events there.
“We have said all along that Republican leaders would put the safety and security of our citizens above all else. While this was not the outcome we were hoping for, we know that President Trump made this decision with the knowledge that he was doing what is best for the people of Jacksonville,” the group’s chairman, Dean Black, said. “The thousands upon thousands of Republicans who volunteered for the convention will now enthusiastically turn to the task of campaigning to re-elect President Trump.”
A Quinnipiac University poll released this week found that 62% of Floridians ― though only 26% of Republicans ― believed it would be unsafe to hold RNC events in Jacksonville.
Florida is currently grappling with a surge of coronavirus cases across the state. On Thursday, it reported its largest number of deaths in a single day from the disease ― 173 fatalities. The state also reported more than 10,200 new infections.