Despite the ongoing pandemic, Republicans are insistent on holding an in-person national convention. With election season around the corner, the party plans to hold a gathering in Jacksonville, Florida next month. Those plans may end up shattered after a group of Jacksonville attorneys filed a lawsuit to block the Republican National Convention citing health concerns.
The complaint — filed in Duval County — has yet to be recorded by the court clerk. However, CNN reported that the attorneys listed a few reasons to stop the RNC from happening in Jacksonville. Namely, that the convention would be a "nuisance injurious to the health (and) welfare" of Jacksonville.
Per CNN, the complaint cited Florida's recent surge of coronaviruses cases, stating, "To avoid community spread of COVID-19 and to protect the health and welfare of Plaintiffs and the community, it is necessary and essential that all super spreader events where large numbers of people congregate in close proximity indoors not occur."
While Republican leadership and President Donald Trump seem insistent on ignoring the coronavirus altogether — with Trump even saying he hoped it would "disappear" —, Florida has emerged as the United States' new coronavirus epicenter. According to data from John Hopkins University, Florida set a record for the most single-day coronavirus cases in any state, with a total of 11,458 last Saturday.
Jacksonville is the RNC's second attempt at holding an in-person gathering. Originally, Republicans planned to head to North Carolina. But in early June, the state's Democratic governor, Roy Cooper, wrote a letter stating, "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."
With Cooper adding that neither he nor public health officials would "risk the health and safety of North Carolinians by providing the guarantee" for an in-person convention, Republicans turned to Jacksonville. The party planned to conduct official business in Charlotte, still, but Trump would accept the presidential nomination in Florida.
Outside of the attorneys, there has been plenty of pushback about these plans. On Twitter, Florida's Democratic party wrote, "[Florida] is leading the US in [coronavirus] cases due to Trump's failed response. Now he's bringing the RNC Convention to Jacksonville. Tens of thousands of lives at risk so Trump can give a speech."
It is more than possible for Republicans to hold a virtual rally. After all, Democrats announced theirs last month. The fuss is really just about trying to give Trump a huge crowd when he accepts the nomination. But, Trump already tested out an in-person gathering with his Tulsa rally. Spoilers: it didn't go too well.
On Wednesday, Tulsa City-County Health Department Director Dr. Bruce Dart said that Trump's rally "likely contributed" to a surge in coronavirus cases. NBC News reported that Tulsa County had 261 confirmed new cases on Monday, a one-day record high, and then 206 additional cases on Tuesday.
“In the past few days, we’ve seen almost 500 new cases, and we had several large events just over two weeks ago, so I guess we just connect the dots," Dart said, according to NBC News.
For his Tulsa rally, Trump's campaign didn't really acknowledge the coronavirus outside of making attendees sign a disclaimer. Things are supposed to be different at the RNC. In June, an RNC spokesperson told Politico, “There will be safety precautions in place that will be adapted based on the situation at the time of the event."
“These include but are not limited to temperature checks, available PPE [Personal Protective Equipment], aggressive sanitizing protocols, available Covid-19 testing, and regular phone calls and coordination with federal, state and local health officials," the spokesperson added. But, that may not be enough. Considering the technology is in place for Republicans to hold a virtual convention, the insistence on gathering in-person seems cavalier.
And in their lawsuit, CNN reported that the attorneys noted, "the congregation of thousands of people in close proximity for extended periods of time will constitute a nuisance and result in massive spread of COVID-19 among the persons in attendance and throughout the City of Jacksonville and Northeast Florida and interfere in Plaintiffs' use and enjoyment of their property and right to be free of infliction of disease and death."