Republicans have scaled back next month’s nominating convention in Jacksonville, Florida, amid signs the state has become the hardest hit coronavirus hotspot in the US with a record 156 fatalities on Thursday.
Ronna McDaniel, chairwoman of the Republican National Committee, wrote to party members, in a letter seen by the Financial Times, to say that only delegates would be allowed to attend the first three days of the convention which starts on August 24.
A slightly wider group will be allowed to attend when Donald Trump gives an address formally accepting the party’s presidential nomination on August 27, Ms McDaniel added, saying “adjustments must be made to comply with state and local health guidelines”.
The Republicans’ decision came as the new outbreak in Florida showed little sign of abating despite measures taken over the past month by local authorities throughout the state to reimpose social distancing restrictions.
In addition to the one-day record death toll recorded on Thursday, Florida reported nearly 14,000 new infections, the second-highest tally of any state since the pandemic began; Florida set that record at 15,300 cases just last week.
The Republican party was originally scheduled to hold its convention, organised once every four years, in Charlotte, North Carolina, but moved most of the event’s activities to Jacksonville after Roy Cooper, North Carolina’s Democratic governor, said he would impose social distancing and other requirements on attendees.
Florida’s Republican governor, Ron DeSantis, is a close ally of Mr Trump. Ms McDaniel said the party would “implement a variety of health protocols”, including “on-site temperature checks” and “available PPE”.
Mr Trump had been reluctant to scale back the convention, which will be held just over two months before election day.
The Democratic party has already announced plans to hold most of its Milwaukee convention, which will be held the week before the Republican gathering, virtually.