Republicans scale back convention plans for Jacksonville

Mixture of indoor and outdoor events planned, with limits on attendees

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GOP officials announced on Thursday that they’re dialing back on the size of next month’s Republican National Convention in Jacksonville, amid a new surge in coronavirus cases in Florida and many other states across the country.

A letter from Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel sent to convention delegates, which was obtained by Fox News, gives details on the downscaling of the quadrennial gathering – which now will include a mix of outdoor and indoor venues.


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

The chairwoman announced that admittance for the first three days of the convention, which kicks off Aug. 24, “will be limited to only regular delegates” – which is roughly 2,500 people. McDaniel explained that for the final day – when President Trump is expected to formally accept the Republican nomination in person – “we plan that each delegate, their guest, and alternate delegates will be permitted to attend.”

That could allow for roughly 6,000-7,000 people in attendance.

VyStar Veteran's Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Fla. will host thousands at this year's Republican National Convention (Robert Sherman, Fox News).

VyStar Veteran's Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Fla. will host thousands at this year's Republican National Convention (Robert Sherman, Fox News). (FOX)

McDaniel also announced that the RNC plans “to utilize a number of indoor and outdoor venues in this multi-block radius of Jacksonville, including the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena, TIAA Bank Field, Daily’s Place Amphitheater, 121 Financial Ballpark, and several others.”

And she emphasized that the RNC plans “to implement a variety of health protocols in order to ensure a safe event.  This plan includes but is not limited to on-site temperature checks, available PPE, aggressive sanitizing protocols, and available COVID-19 testing.”

Fox News reported last week that GOP officials had already checked out multiple outdoor venues in the immediate vicinity of the VyStar arena – where the convention was slated to be held – and are in discussions about potential options for all of them, including football and baseball stadiums.

The developments are the latest involving a convention that’s seen plenty of drama over the past couple of months due to health concerns amid the coronavirus pandemic.


The RNC last month chose Jacksonville to host major portions of the convention, after largely abandoning the city of Charlotte, N.C., over disagreements on coronavirus-related crowd restrictions.

The president and Republican officials were angered after Gov. Roy Cooper of North Carolina, a Democrat, said that because of the pandemic he wasn’t prepared to guarantee the RNC a full-fledged convention with an arena packed full of party officials, delegates and activists as desired by Trump. Some business aspects of the convention, however, will still be held in Charlotte.

North Carolina is among the majority of states that have seen major spikes in new coronavirus cases in the last month and a half.

Jacksonville was likely attractive to GOP officials because it was the only city under consideration as a backup to Charlotte that has a Republican mayor in a state with a governor from the same party.

But new cases of the coronavirus have surged dramatically in Florida in recent weeks, raising fresh concerns regarding the convention. The city recently enacted a mandatory mask requirement for public and indoor locations.

A look at the Jacksonville skyline off the shores of the St. Johns River (Robert Sherman, Fox News)

A look at the Jacksonville skyline off the shores of the St. Johns River (Robert Sherman, Fox News)

But holding outdoor events in Florida in the summertime could trigger other issues. The state is extremely hot in the summer – with temperatures in the 90s and often topping 100 degrees. Thunderstorms are also a constant threat, and August marks the traditional start of hurricane season.


The Democratic National Convention – which was pushed back a month and is scheduled to start on Aug. 17 – is still being held in Milwaukee.

But the Democratic National Committee announced last month that their confab will be conducted mostly online.

Fox News' Kristin Fisher and Lillian LeCroy contributed to this report