By Steve Holland and Jeff Mason
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Republicans are planning to move their convention formally nominating President Donald Trump for a second White House term from an indoor arena to an outdoor venue as Florida’s coronavirus cases surge, two party sources familiar with the conversations said on Tuesday.
They said the plan, which Trump tentatively accepted on Monday during a White House meeting with top Republican National Committee (RNC) officials, emerged as the party scrambles to host a large-scale event next month amid the health crisis.
“We’re not blind to the health concerns in Florida,” a Republican official said. “But at the same time, we’re committed to holding an in-person celebration of the president’s nomination.”
Organizers had planned to host the Aug. 24-27 convention at VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Florida. They now will move the main events – including Trump’s acceptance speech – to one of two outdoor arenas in the area, the two Republican sources said.
Sources emphasized the plans still could change. The RNC declined to comment.
Skepticism has grown about the likelihood of a full-scale convention, with some members of Congress saying they will skip it and some donors wary of bankrolling an event in a state with rising infections. Democrats are planning a mostly virtual convention.
Florida’s virus count has soared since it was chosen to host the convention after Trump scrapped long-laid plans to accept the party’s nomination in Charlotte, North Carolina. That state’s governor, a Democrat, would not commit to allowing large gatherings with restrictions in place because of the pandemic.
Health officials reported the highest daily increase of deaths in Florida residents from COVID-19 on Tuesday. On Sunday, the state reported more than 15,000 new cases, marking the highest single-day total of known cases in any state.
Trump’s desire for large rallies has been stymied by the virus.
“He wants rallies but he only wants rallies if they’re filled and over-capacity, and at the same time we’re seeing a surge in the virus,” said a former senior administration official close to the White House. “That’s going to be a tough square to circle. I don’t know that there is a good answer.”
(Reporting By Steve Holland and Jeff Mason; additional reporting and writing by Jarrett Renshaw; Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Howard Goller)