President Donald Trump said Tuesday that the Republican National Committee would relocate its upcoming nominating convention from North Carolina after the state’s governor refused to guarantee that tens of thousands of people could gather in an indoor arena during the coronavirus pandemic.
“Governor [Roy] Cooper is still in Shelter-In-Place Mode, and not allowing us to occupy the arena as originally anticipated and promised,” Trump tweeted. “Would have showcased beautiful North Carolina to the World, and brought in hundreds of millions of dollars, and jobs, for the State.”
Cooper, a Democrat, said Tuesday he had been supportive of a “safe” convention and had made protecting public health a priority. But the governor claimed RNC officials “never agreed to scale down and make changes to keep people safe.”
RNC officials said the move was linked to the state’s public health directives that limit large gatherings but noted the event could still continue as planned “should the governor allow more than 10 people in a room.”
“Due to the directive from the governor that our convention cannot go on as planned as required by our rules, the celebration of the president’s acceptance of the Republican nomination will be held in another city,” the official told HuffPost. “Should the governor allow more than 10 people in a room, we still hope to conduct the official business of the convention in Charlotte.”
Cooper wrote to Republican officials this week to address the threat posed by the coronavirus, saying he felt it was “very unlikely” a normal convention could go forward after speaking with public health officials.
“The people of North Carolina do not know what the status of COVID-19 will be in August, so planning for a scaled-down convention with fewer people, social distancing and face coverings is a necessity,” he wrote. “We are happy to continue talking with you about what a scaled-down convention would look like.”
The decision comes amid ongoing concerns over the spread of COVID-19, even as states have opened up large sectors of their economies. Up to 50,000 people are expected to attend the RNC event, which was set to take place from August 24-27 in Charlotte.
More than 1.8 million people have been infected with the virus in the U.S. and more than 106,000 have died. While infection rates have tapered off in some places, health officials have warned of a dramatic second wave, should social distancing measures be lifted too soon.
Democrats have also been working on contingency measures for their own convention, which is scheduled for August in Milwaukee. The party has been mulling some type of virtual event, although officials have reportedly been holding out for an in-person gathering.
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