GOP Moving Forward With Convention Plans Despite Pandemic Uncertainty

April 16, 2020 by Dan McCue
Balloons fall after Republican Presidential Candidate Donald Trump, addresses the delegates during the final day of the RNC in Cleveland, Thursday, July 21, 2016. (John Locher/AP)

WASHINGTON — The Republican party is moving forward with plans to hold its National nominating convention in Charlotte, N.C. this summer, despite continued uncertainty over when the coronavirus outbreak will finally crest and go away.

“Truthfully, there really isn’t a contingency plan, at least in terms of not having a convention,” convention CEO Marcia Lee Kelly told reporters on a conference call Wednesday.

“Public safety is paramount,” Kelly said, emphasizing the Republican National Committee and all those working on the convention are in constant contact with public health officials regarding the viral pandemic.

“Remember, this is going to be one of the first large scale events to be held since [the onset of the coronavirus crisis], and I believe the eyes of the world will be on our convention and on Charlotte ,” she said.

She then reminded the reporters that the Republican National Convention is still a full four months away, “and we are moving full steam ahead to … a historic convention.”

Convention organizers were thrown a curve earlier this week — at least in the minds of the reporters on the call — when Mecklenburg County officials announced the Charlotte Convention Center is the preferred site for a 600-bed field hospital to treat non-acute coronavirus patients.

Mecklenburg County Manager Dena Diorio told commissioners during a virtual meeting Tuesday that both Atrium Health and Novant Health , which have facilities in the area, are still analyzing their capacity to treat infected patients, but the need for the hospital was a real possibility.

If it came to pass, it could be treating patients into the middle of June and perhaps longer.

The Republican National Convention is expected to bring more than 50,000 people to the city just weeks later, for a four-day gathering that begins on August 24, and will include at least 1,200 related receptions and other events.

GOP officials on the call said they’ve been working with local, state and federal partners, and are confident they are prepared for any situation.

“Could the pandemic affect how we do things? I think it’s a little too early to say,” Kelly said. “But what you need to know is, we need to nominate a Republican candidate for president of the United States and we need to adopt our rules and party platform, so our convention is 100% on.”

The Democratic party, of course, faced a similar dilemma and had the added problem of its convention in Milwaukee, Wisconsin being scheduled far sooner.

Two weeks ago, the party postponed its convention to the week of Aug. 17, just a week before Republicans gather in Charlotte.

“The proposed field hospital is a pretty hot topic right now,” one of the GOP officials on the call said. “Our goal remains the same — to have a convention that is safe for everyone and is a great economic benefit to Charlotte.”

“We believe this convention is going to show everyone that Charlotte is open for business again,” the official said.

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