GOP sharply restricts convention attendance over coronavirus fears

Shadows of delegates cast on the floor at the 2016 GOP convention in Cleveland
The shadows of delegates are seen on the convention floor during the second day of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland in 2016.
(John Locher / Associated Press)

The Republican National Committee is sharply restricting attendance on three of the four nights of its convention in Jacksonville, Fla., next month, as it looks for ways to move forward with the event while coronavirus cases are spiking in the state.

RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel said in a letter to committee members that only the roughly 2,500 regular delegates to the convention would be permitted to attend the opening three nights of the convention. Delegates, their guests and alternate delegates would be permitted to attend the final night, Aug. 27, when President Trump is set to deliver his acceptance speech.

The move comes after the GOP decided to move most of the convention from Charlotte, N.C., after officials there ruled out a full-capacity crowd amid the pandemic.

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

In recent weeks, Florida has seen significant increases in confirmed cases, with Jacksonville instituting a mask-wearing mandate and the state limiting gatherings to 50% of a venue’s capacity.


The RNC was still working to determine the programming of the event. McDaniel said the convention was planning to use both indoor and outdoor spaces. GOP officials familiar with the planning said the marquee evening program, including Trump’s speech, was expected to take place outdoors to accommodate the largest crowd possible.

According to Florida’s Department of Health, 15,299 more people tested positive for the coronavirus infection, for a total of 269,811 cases.

The GOP will be providing on-site temperature checks and face coverings, and will have COVID-19 testing available for attendees.

“We can gather and put on a top-notch event that celebrates the incredible accomplishments of President Trump’s administration and his renomination for a second term — while also doing so in a safe and responsible manner,” McDaniel wrote.

The formal business of renominating Trump will still take place in Charlotte, but with a far smaller group of delegates casting proxy votes.