President Trump announced Thursday that he is canceling the Republican National Convention events that were scheduled to take place next month in Jacksonville, Fla. – citing the rising numbers of COVID-19 in the state.
“The timing for this event is not right, it’s just not right,” Trump said during a press briefing at the White House. “To have a big convention, it’s just not the right time.”
Trump added: “There is nothing more important in our country than keeping our people safe.”
Republican National Committee (RNC) Chair Ronna McDaniel said she supported the president's announcement, calling it a "difficult decision."
Bill Stepien, Trump’s re-election campaign manager, said in a statement: “Leading by example, President Trump has put the health and safety of the American people first with his decision on the Jacksonville convention.”
And the Republican Party of Florida tweeted that Trump "made a selfless decision by cancelling the FL component of @GOP Convention."
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.
While the Jacksonville portion of the convention has been canceled, Trump said that delegates will still meet in North Carolina and that he will give an address when he accepts the nomination.
The president’s announcement comes as Florida has become the most recent epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic.
As of Thursday, the state had recorded more than 390,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 – including more than 9,000 in the last 24 hours – and over 5,500 deaths.
After deciding to move the celebratory aspects of the convention out of North Carolina, 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.
The RNC planned to hold the Jacksonville parts of the convention in the VyStar arena. But last week -- as new cases of the coronavirus surged in Florida -- Republican Party officials announced that they were downsizing the events in Jacksonville by limiting the number of people who could attend the convention and moving parts of the confab to outdoor venues.
The downshifting came soon after the city enacted a mandatory mask requirement for public and indoor locations.
Even after moving most of the convention to Florida, the RNC had always planned to hold some business aspects of the gathering in Charlotte.
But the major prime time events - such as the president's nomination acceptance speech will likely move online.
"We're going to do some things with tele-rallies and online the week that we're discussing, which would be really good. I think we're going to do it well, Trump noted.
The Democrats have also dramatically downscaled their convention.
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 (DNC) announced last month that their confab will be conducted mostly online -- with delegates and Democratic members of Congress taking part in the convention virtually rather than in-person.
Commenting on the president's convention announcement, DNC chair Tom Perez charged that "unlike Trump, we followed the science, listened to doctors and public health experts, and worked through plans to protect lives. That’s how we made the decision to hold a responsible convention that will bring our country together, ensure our delegates can take care of official business without risk to public health, and still shine a spotlight on our host community of Milwaukee."