North Carolina Says It Wants RNC to Produce Convention Pandemic Plan

May 27, 2020 by Dan McCue
North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper listens to a question during a briefing on the coronavirus pandemic at the Emergency Operations Center in Raleigh, N.C., Tuesday, May 26, 2020. (Ethan Hyman/The News & Observer via AP)

North Carolina’s health and human services secretary has asked the CEO of the Republican National Convention to provide the state with a written coronavirus safety plan for the presidential nominating event currently planned for Charlotte in August.

The request by state HHS Secretary Mandy Cohen came on the heels of President Donald Trump threatening to pull the convention unless “full attendance” is allowed.

In her letter to convention CEO Marcia Kelly, Cohen said, “We look forward to continuing to work with you and your team to ensure a safe RNC,” but added that there must be “several scenarios planned that can be deployed depending on the public health situation.”

The existence of the letter was first reported by The Charlotte Observer.

Neither Gov. Roy Cooper nor Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles has definitively said whether or not the convention will be held in August, instead insisting that data and science will govern their decisions on whether or not the RNC will go forward.

Cohen’s letter suggested the state is continuing to plan for an in-person convention in Charlotte, an event that was originally expected to draw about 50,000 people to the city.

Current coronavirus social distancing rules in the state cap the size of indoor gatherings at just 10 people.

Trump heightened tensions over the convention this week, tweeting on Monday that unless full attendance is allowed, “We will be reluctantly forced to find, with all of the jobs and economic development it brings, another Republican National Convention site.”

He later said he wants the state to make a decision on the matter within a week.

“We need a fast decision from the governor,” the president told reporters at the White House. “He’s been acting very, very slowly and very suspiciously, but we’ll find out. We’re talking about a very short period of time.

“I would say within a week that certainly we have to know. If he can’t do it, if he feels he’s not going to do it, all he has to do is tell us. And then we’ll have to pick another location. And I tell you a lot of locations want it,” Trump said.

The Republican National Convention is scheduled for Aug. 24 to Aug. 27 at the Spectrum Center.

Organizers are scheduled to take over the stadium mid-July for an extensive rebuilding of the venue, including raising the floor of the arena.

On Tuesday, in his first public comments on the controversy, Gov. Cooper, a Democrat, said, “I’m not surprised by anything I see on Twitter.

“It’s OK for political conventions to be political but pandemic response cannot be … We’d like to reach a resolution that everybody can be reasonable about,” he said.

In reference to Cohen’s letter, Cooper said the state asked convention organizers to provide written plans about how they would ensure the health of delegates and other convention-goers.

“We’re talking about something that’s going to happen three months from now, and we don’t know what our situation is going to be,” he said. “These are the same kinds of conversations we were having with the Carolina Panthers, the Charlotte Hornets … . everyone wants to get back in action soon … . but everyone knows we have to take steps to make sure people are protected because this virus is still going to be with us in August.”

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