Against prodding from his aides who argued that he could still hold the event safely, President Donald Trump reversed course on a plan to hold a portion of the Republican National Convention in Florida, noting that the “timing for this event is not right” with the state experiencing a surge of coronavirus cases.
The president made the announcement during his daily press briefing Thursday, just weeks after Republicans moved parts of the convention, set to take place Aug. 24–27, from Charlotte, North Carolina, to Jacksonville after the RNC had to seek other locations to host their convention after Gov. Roy Cooper had "refused to guarantee that we can have use of the Spectrum Arena" the president said on Twitter last month.
Trump is expected to accept the Republican nomination for president during the convention.
“Everything was going well — a tremendous list of speakers; thousands of people wanting to be there — and I mean, in some cases, desperately be there. They wanted to attend. People making travel arrangements all over the country; they wanted to be there. The pageantry, the signs, the excitement were really, really top of the line,” the president said about the Jacksonville convention.
“But I looked at my team, and I said, ‘The timing for this event is not right. It’s just not right with what’s happened recently — the flare up in Florida — to have a big convention. It’s not the right time,’” Trump said. “It’s really something that, for me — I have to protect the American people. That’s what I’ve always done. That’s what I always will do. That’s what I’m about.”
As of Friday morning, Florida officials had confirmed more than 389,000 cases of coronavirus and more than 5,500 related deaths.
“I told my team, ‘It’s time to cancel the Jacksonville, Florida, component of the GOP Convention,’” Trump said.
The president explained that despite reports to the contrary, portions of the convention were always slated to remain in North Carolina and it's expected to begin there with adjustments made to other parts of the event with the goal of keeping people safe.
“We’ll be starting in North Carolina for the Monday, as has always been planned. We were never taking that off. That’s remaining as it is. The delegates are going to get together. That’s where they do their nomination,” Trump said.
“And we’re going to do some other things with tele-rallies and online — the week that we’re discussing, which will be really good. I think we’re going to do it well. And I’ll still do a convention speech in a different form, but we won’t do a big, crowded convention per se. It’s just not the right time for that,” he added.
On Tuesday, during his first official briefing on the pandemic since April, the president raised similar concern about protecting public health when he acknowledging a worrying increase in COVID-19 cases across the South, and urged people to wear a mask after calling the virus “a vicious and dangerous illness.”
“We’re asking everybody that when you are not able to socially distance, wear a mask, get a mask. Whether you like the mask or not, they have an impact. They’ll have an effect. And we need everything we can get,” he said.
Nationally, more than 3.8 million confirmed cases of the virus and more than 140,000 deaths have been reported by the CDC.