One month before the scheduled Republican National Convention in Jacksonville, Fla., President Donald Trump announced his decision to pull the plug on all events in the Sunshine State, a hot spot for COVID-19.
Trump cited the coronavirus threat in Florida when he announced the decision Thursday. Florida, which inherited host duties after the GOP pulled out of the original site in Charlotte, N.C., over social-distancing demands, is now the third most COVID-19 infected state with nearly 390,000 cases and 5,600 deaths.
“I told my team it’s time to cancel the Jacksonville, Florida, component of the GOP convention,” Trump said at a White House coronavirus briefing. “Thousands of people (are) wanting to be there, and I mean in some cases, desperately be there,” Trump said. “People making travel arrangements all over the country.”
Trump said he still plans to deliver a campaign speech but “in a different form.” He said he will announce more details about this online speech in the coming days.
“We won’t do a big crowded convention, per se,” said Trump, adding that he cares “deeply about the people of Florida.”
Trump’s decision to cancel plans for Jacksonville comes after his very public fight with Gov. Roy Cooper, D-N.C., who wanted to limit crowd size at the Charlotte rally to avoid spreading COVID-19.
Cooper insisted convention attendees wear face masks and strictly practice social distancing. In May, Trump announced he was canceling the North Carolina rally over his fallout with Cooper.
“Governor Cooper is still in Shelter-in-Place Mode, and not allowing us to occupy the arena as originally anticipated and promised,” Trump tweeted at the time. “We are now forced to seek another state to host the 2020 Republican National Convention.”
Members of the Republican Party’s Jacksonville 2020 Host Committee praised Trump’s decision to cancel the Jacksonville leg of the Republican National Convention, set for the week of Aug. 24.
“President Trump made the absolute right decision for the health and safety of the people of Jacksonville and of the entire state of Florida,” said the host committee in a statement. “The rise in the number of COVID-19 cases in Florida is serious and the President and the RNC have demonstrated great concern for the safety of all Floridians.”
Earlier this month, the host committee announced a severe cap on the number of people who could attend the Jacksonville event due to a surge in the state’s COVID-19 cases. Accoroding to a new Quinnipiac University poll, 62% of Florida voters thought it would be unsafe to hold the convention in the state.
Located in Duval County, Jacksonville is the most populous city in Florida with more than 900,000 residing in the metropolitan area. Duval County has 18,400 of the state’s total COVID-19 cases.