RNC 2020 leaders moving ‘full steam ahead’ with August convention in Charlotte

Updated: Apr. 15, 2020 at 11:01 AM EDT
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CHARLOTTE,NC (WBTV) - Leaders with the Republican National Convention say they’re moving forward with plans to host the convention in Charlotte in August.

The convention is expected to bring nearly 50,000 people to the city, which has posed concern for some residents during the coronavirus pandemic.

Marcia Lee Kelly, 2020 RNC President and CEO, says they are moving “full steam ahead” to produce this historic convention in the Queen City.

“This has been a truly challenging time,” Kelly said. “We are working to make this a remarkable and safe experience for all."

Kelly said she is “absolutely enamored” by Charlotte and wants to bring business to the local economy. “There is really something special about this region and we are vested in the community,” Kelly continued. “We are ready to produce a 5-star and historic convention for our community.”

RNC leaders say they have been ahead of schedule and that the health of the community remains top priority.

“This is unknown territory," Kelly said. “We are closely monitoring what the governor, the CDC and experts in healthcare are saying."

While Trump has said he won’t cancel the RNC in Charlotte, Kelly says the decision would ultimately come down to how Governor Roy Cooper and local officials plant to move forward.

“In the coming months, all eyes will be on Charlotte and the Carolinas,” Kelly said, reiterating the importance of the convention as many big events, including the Olympics, have been canceled. Kelly said Charlotte will be the “pioneer” on how to fun a big public event.

RNC leaders say the convention may look different - with hand sanitizer readily available and enhanced social distancing guidelines - but it’s still too early to define protocol. “I think it’s a different world,” Kelly said. "We’re fighting with an invisible enemy here.”

Max Everett, RNC vice president and CIO, said there could be more virtual elements to the convention with finding other ways to allow people at home to engage in the convention.

RNC leaders were asked what would happen if the convention center was turned into a hospital to care for COVID-19 patients. The answer wasn’t very clear, just that the situation would be monitored.

In March, Mecklenburg County Health Director Gibbie Harris said her team had been preparing for the RNC for the past year.

“We have multiple scenarios with trigger points,” Harris said. “There are any number of scenarios that we would on a regular basis to make sure we have things in place, resources in place and partners in place to respond in the appropriate way.”

The RNC Host Committee Communications Director Jill Kay said she was waiting to hear from the administration and the committee of arrangements about next steps.

“Of course the health and safety of the attendees and the residents of Charlotte are always first and foremost," Kay said.

Kay says officials are vigilant about staying up to date with this virus and to give out information to calm fears.

Harris says while we wait to see what happens with the RNC and what the virus will look like in August, people should take this seriously and act appropriately.

On April 20, CNN’s Betsy Klein reported that the RNC committee will assess in late June or early July about if contingencies need to be made due to the coronavirus.

“We don’t build out our convention until July. So I think we have at least until the end of June or early July to make a decision if we have to switch from a traditional convention to something scaled back. But we will have to have an in-person convention. Those are the bylaws of the RNC and so currently, going forward, we’re planning on a full-scale convention,” GOP Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel told CNN.

For more information about coronavirus in Mecklenburg County click here

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