Pamela A. Zeiser By: Pamela A. Zeiser
Associate Professor of Political Science
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09 Jul 2020 : Jacksonville, FL: Convention Question Marks

Back to chronicling pandemic politics in Jacksonville, Florida as it prepares for the Republican National Convention:

On Monday July 6, over 80 clergy from churches in Jacksonville sent a letter to city leaders expressing concern about the city hosting the convention for reasons of public health, racial tensions, and economic anxiety.

Also on Monday July 6, medical doctors sent a letter to Florida Governor Ron DeSantis asking that he institute measures such as a statewide mandate for face masks/shields and limit indoor gathering to no more than 50 people. The letter does not reference the convention directly but does state: “Large in-person gatherings where it is difficult for individuals to remain at least six feet apart and where attendees travel from outside the local areas pose the highest risk.” Though the letter started in Jacksonville, hundreds (perhaps thousands) of doctors from all over the state have now signed.

On Wednesday July 8, several businesses and residents in the downtown area of the proposed convention have filed a lawsuit, arguing the large gathering would be a public “nuisance injurious to the health, welfare and property rights of plaintiffs, in particular, and the health and welfare of the community of Jacksonville.” Defendants include the City of Jacksonville, Donald Trump and his campaign, and the Republican National Committee. Plaintiffs are not asking for money and are willing to compromise, such as moving the President’s acceptance speech to an outdoor venue or limiting the numbers and requiring masks indoors, to curtail its potential to be a super-spreader event. Neither the City of Jacksonville nor President Trump have responded.

Also on Wednesday July 8, the President of Jacksonville’s City Council – which was not given a vote on bringing the convention here – sent a memo to the mayor asking about the convention safety plans, whether the mask mandate will apply to the convention, and a number of economic questions about the planning, such as whether and how much the city has to pay out up front and whether the city would be reimbursed if the convention cancels.

Also on Wednesday July 8, President Trump said in an interview that they would be “very flexible” about the Convention now that Florida and Jacksonville’s cases are spiking.

On Thursday, July 9, the Washington Post reported that the Republican National Convention officials may move the convention to an outdoor venue. (Reminder: it’ll rain every afternoon, it’ll be 90+ degrees Fahrenheit, and that’s near-peak hurricane season.)

Convention organizers have not yet released a safety plan for the convention, despite calls from many community leaders. Earlier in the week, they did announce that convention-goers will be able to take COVID-19 tests at the convention – but did not say how quickly test results would be available or what procedures would be for those who test positive.

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