Scaled-down RNC gives glimpse of what future group gatherings could look like

Could the RNC set the standard for future events?

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - The Republican National Convention was the largest sanctioned event in North Carolina since the start of the pandemic. Health professionals believe the protocols used to host the RNC could be used to minimize the risk of spreading COVID-19 during other group gatherings.

“It went really well. I’m very happy with the process,” Atrium Health’s Dr. David Callaway said. “With the testing prior to arrival, the testing when people did arrive, and then the daily screening, we were able to really make a safe environment here.”

Atrium Health, Novant Health, MEDIC, Secret Service, and the Republican National Committee collaborated to create a safety plan in order to host the convention in person. After some revisions, the plan was approved by Mecklenburg County Public Health and the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services.

“I think the lesson of the RNC is that you can’t eliminate risk, but you can reduce it a lot. If you get all the players on the same page, you agree to what you want to achieve, and then you put in the work. What we showed is that, and what we will show I think is that you can do this relatively safely, even in a COVID environment,” Dr. Callaway said.

Being the first large group gathering, other organizations, companies, and schools may consider emulating the RNC’s plan to host their events in person as well.

“I do think this can apply to school, I do think we can take these lessons, help open the economy again. And this is where Atrium is really been helping the lead is bringing healthcare, the business sector, and the government together to help solve these complex problems,” Dr. Callaway said.

“I definitely think some of the protocols used could be used to open up the convention center and open up Charlotte in larger groups than 10 together,” South Carolina Delegate Glenn McCall said.

Some of the measures taken at the RNC include testing delegates before and after they arrived in Charlotte, requiring them to submit any symptoms they experienced on a daily basis, and they agreed to wear Bluetooth tracking technology that could help make contact tracing easier.

“Used it a few times to match up some potential contacts between people. So, the technology works, we know it works pretty well. The question fundamentally for how it will work in society is to what degree of privacy are people willing to give up and is there a relative advantage to being able to track people who may or may not have been exposed to coronavirus,” Dr. Callaway said.

While many people agree the protocols put in place reduced the risk of spreading coronavirus, North Carolina delegate John Steward doesn’t believe it’s necessary to always go to those extremes in order to host large groups in person.

“This was one of the first big events but if you look at it, a lot of the churches that have been meeting, they’ve had much larger crowds at the big churches. There are several that have 4, 5, 600 people there. And it’s pretty much the same atmosphere and all those people did not go through the protocols. And we aren’t seeing a big increase. Churches in North Carolina have been meeting for about a month now, and we aren’t seeing a big spike from that.”

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