RNC delegates isolate, take home COVID-19 tests before travel to Charlotte

Preparing for the RNC during a pandemic

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Delegates and employees attending the Republican National Convention in Charlotte next week have already begun taking enhanced health precautions to reduce the risk of spreading the coronavirus at the 2020 RNC.

Organizers of the Republican National Convention submitted a health protocol plan to North Carolina state leaders at the beginning of August which details precautions that will be taken by the 336 delegates expected to attend and the roughly 164 contractors, vendors, employees, security, and other people who will attend the scaled back 2020 Republican National Convention.

Health leaders with Atrium Health, Novant Health, MEDIC, Mecklenburg County Health and the U.S. Secret Service were consulted in the health plans. It includes measures to be taken before delegates travel to Charlotte, when they arrive in Charlotte, during the convention, and when they return to their home states.

Pre-Travel in Home State

Before RNC attendees travel to Charlotte, the health plan advises them to practice enhanced social distancing which includes staying home as much as possible and avoiding crowds in their homes or in public.

The RNC created an online health portal in which attendees are required to report any symptoms they are experiencing daily. Attendees started reporting symptoms in the health portal on Tuesday, August 18.

Glenn McCall of Rock Hill serves as South Carolina’s RNC Committeeman, and he Co-Chair’s the RNC’s Committee on Arrangements. He will be attending the convention in Charlotte next week. As required by the health protocols, he took at at-home COVID-19 test last week.

“You just run it up a little ways in your nasal cavity, both sides, put it in a solution and send them back to LabCorp,” McCall said.

McCall says he received his negative test results three days later. All attendees are required to produce a negative test result before traveling to Charlotte.

Delegates are expected to arrive in Charlotte starting Thursday.

Pre-Convention Participation in Charlotte

When delegates arrive in Charlotte, the RNC will validate they completed the pre-travel questionnaire and daily symptom tracker when they check in to the Westin Hotel. Novant Health will provide health screenings including temperature checks to delegates at the hotel.

All delegates and workers will be tested for COVID-19 upon their arrival in Charlotte. Novant Health and Atrium Health will provide the testing.

“We’re going to be able to do those rapid swabs. We’ll have the results back in a number of hours that we can share with the delegates and the people planning,” Chief Clinical Officer of Novant Health Dr. Sid Fletcher said.

“It will be a combination of rapid testing and in-house testing that turns around the same day,” Atrium Health Director of Disaster Medicine Dr. Dave Callaway said.

Dr. Callaway says the quickest turnarounds will be designated for delegates, but turnaround times shouldn’t take more than 12 hours for any attendee of the convention. Specimens will be tested at Atrium Health and Novant Health’s in-house labs.

While Attending the Convention

In addition to reporting symptoms each morning through the health portal, Novant Health personnel will screen delegates for symptoms of COVID-19 at the Westin Hotel. If the delegates pass the health screening, they will be given a wristband that provides them access to proceed to the Charlotte Convention Center for the day’s activities.

“If they don’t {pass}, they will do a secondary screening to see if they need to sit out that day or get retested, which could be possible,” Dr. Fletcher said.

Atrium Health will conduct similar screenings to other attendees of the RNC at the Convention Center including employees, vendors, contractors, security and other personnel.

According to the RNC plans submitted to the state, if an attendee needs to be tested again, they will be isolated until their test results come back. If the results come back negative, they may go through health screenings the following day to gain admission to the Convention Center. If the test comes back positive, the attendee will remain in isolation and be referred to the county health department. They will also be offered a telehealth visit with Novant Health or Atrium Health.

In accordance with the North Carolina state mandate, masks will be required at the RNC. Attendees are expected to maintain a 6-foot distance between others. The RNC’s health plans states seating will accommodate social distance. Food and beverages will only be consumed in specific locations of the Convention Center and seating, again, must be 6-feet-apart in these areas.

“These are core principles that you have to put in place to control COVID. And our team has been very deliberate in making sure this is put in operations for the RNC. So masking is mandatory, and that will be enforced, there has been human-centered design to restructure how the rooms are set up so that if people are eating lunch or having meetings, they will be physically distanced, and of course we will have an abundance of hand sanitizer,” Dr. Dave Callaway said.

Post-Convention

When delegates and attendees return home after the convention in Charlotte, the RNC recommends they remain at an enhanced social distance for 14 days. They will be asked to self-report any illnesses or symptoms upon their return via the health portal.

According to the RNC plans, they will follow-up with each person 5 days, 14 days, and 21 days after the convention to check for any symptoms or illnesses. If there is a positive case, local health officials will be notified for further monitoring and contact tracing.

“We recognize that even with a scaled down event, this is still a high-risk event. So how do we do that working with both state health official, and local and county officials, and the two healthcare systems,” Dr. Fletcher said of the planning that went into mitigation efforts for the Republican National Convention.

South Carolina RNC Committeeman Glenn McCall says this will be his fourth Republican National Convention. He says he is disappointed not all delegates will be able to attend.

“Having all the grassroots delegates from around the country and the territories that really look forward, you know they work for 4 years and really save up their monies to come to the convention,” McCall said. “...Breakfast, lunch events, the after convention evening events. It’s just a lot of fun and our grassroots look for that. I just hate that covid is here but we’ll make the best of it.

McCall says he is not aware of any planned events at local businesses outside of the charlotte Convention Center or the Westin Hotel, but delegates are free to venture into Charlotte during their time.

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