Pamela A. Zeiser By: Pamela A. Zeiser
Associate Professor of Political Science
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03 Jul 2020 : Jacksonville, FL: Rumors and the Grim Reaper

On July 3, Jacksonville’s COVID-19 positive rate is above 16%, as it becomes one of the top US cities seeing the fastest growth in cases, along with other cities in Florida and Texas.

Local media is reporting a wide range of Republican National Convention-related rumors, as Vice President Mike Pence expresses enthusiasm about the RNC coming to Jacksonville and insisted that the organizers have “very sophisticated plans to make sure it is a safe and healthy environment.” No plans have been made public yet.

What has been made public is the fact that local hospital officials are concerned about the city hosting the convention as Jacksonville’s COVID-19 hospitalization rates have increased 10-15% across the region just between Wednesday July 1 and Thursday July 2. Hospital officials expressed this concern to the city council and state officials, noting that in addition to COVID-19 the hospitals could potentially expect patients from protests that devolve into violence and they must also plan for the possibility of terrorism.

At the same time, pandemic politics of the convention are ramping up, as the Florida Democratic Party launched a petition to Trump to cancel the convention for public health reasons and introduced the hashtag #NoJaxRNC. They also released a digital ad against the convention.

There are also rumors of rifts between local and national GOP officials, and between GOP officials and the Trump Campaign, as they scramble to plan the August convention.

There are reports from Vanity Fair as well as local news that the Trump Campaign is considering cancelling the President’s acceptance speech to avoid the low turnout – and attendant bad press – seen at Tulsa’s campaign rally.

On a somewhat lighter note, the Grim Reaper visited Jacksonville Beaches today – or, at least a Florida attorney dressed as the Reaper did. As News4Jax reported, Daniel Uhlfelder began walking Florida’s beaches in a Grim Reaper costume back in March, to protest the re-opening of beaches despite COVID-19. While the tour itself is unrelated to the convention, Uhlfelder said he put Jacksonville on his itinerary in part due to it hosting the convention.

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