(The Center Square) – Organizers of the Republican National Convention said Tuesday they will start visiting new locations to possibly host the event, which is scheduled for August in Charlotte.
North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper and public health officials have been communicating back and forth with convention organizers about executing the convention amid the COVID-19 outbreak.
Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel released a statement Tuesday in response to Cooper, a Democrat, saying he could not guarantee full capacity for the three-day event.
“It is unfortunate the Governor is dragging his feet on giving us any guidance as to how to move forward with plans to safely conduct our convention while generating hundreds of millions of revenue for the people of Charlotte and North Carolina,” McDaniel said in a statement posted on Twitter.
Cooper told McDaniel and Republican National Convention President and CEO Marcia Kelly their request for 19,000 people to occupy the Spectrum Center and to fill hotels, bars and restaurants is improbable.
“With the Nation, the State of North Carolina and the City of Charlotte still under states of emergency, it’s important to conduct the RNC convention accordingly,'” Cooper wrote in a letter to McDaniel and Kelly on Tuesday. “As much as we want the conditions surrounding COVID-19 to be favorable enough for you to hold the convention you describe in late August, it is very unlikely. Neither public health officials nor I will risk the safety of North Carolinians by providing the guarantee you seek.”
In a letter to Cooper on Friday, McDaniel and Kelly asked for confirmation the convention would take place according to the original plans, agreed on two years ago.
The state agreed to accommodate the 19,000 delegates, alternative delegates, staff, volunteers, elected officials and guests who plan to attend from Aug. 24-27, McDaniel said.
North Carolina is in phase two of reopening its economy. Gatherings are limited to 10 people indoors and 25 people outdoors, and restaurants are allowed to open at 50 percent capacity.
Cooper said he is willing to discuss a scaled-down event with social distancing measures and face coverings. McDaniel is pushing to finalize the plans.
“We hope to still conduct the business of our convention in Charlotte, but we have an obligation to our delegates and nominee to begin visiting the multiple cities and states who have reached out in recent days about hosting an historic event to show that America is open for business,” McDaniel said.
RNC officials are expected to visit Nashville this week, Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee said Tuesday. Las Vegas, Georgia and Florida also expressed interest in hosting the event, which generated an estimated $188 million in 2016 for Cleveland, according to the Cleveland host committee.
Despite RNC’s decision to explore other options, Cooper, during a press briefing Tuesday, reiterated his desire to keep working with the committee.
“I hope they all continue to talk with us about a scaled-down convention, we’re ready to discuss that,” he said. “We’re still waiting for answers to our health questions about how they would take steps to protect people about social distancing and face masks, and we have not heard a response from that.”
North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen, in a letter Friday, asked McDaniel and Kelly to provide the number of attendees and specifics on social distancing measures, including a safety plan for RNC events taking place outside of the main venue.