RNC report says no one caught COVID-19 at convention in Charlotte, positive people were isolated

RNC report says no one caught COVID-19 at convention in Charlotte, positive people were isolated
(Source: WBTV)

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (The Charlotte Observer) - A new report from Republican National Convention officials says follow-up surveys with some of those who attended have revealed no one contracted COVID-19 while at the event held in Charlotte.

The results have not yet been shared or commented on by local health officials in charge of coronavirus response in Mecklenburg County. On Friday, just before the report was made public, the county health director said she had not yet seen the RNC’s statement.

Released a month after the RNC, the report was expected to show whether officials detected new infections due to the 2020 RNC, which was drastically scaled-back due to the coronavirus pandemic. New information from the RNC, which was first reported Friday by North State Journal, also details extensive COVID-19 safety measures and testing implemented during the event — the largest indoor event sanctioned by state and local officials in the Charlotte area since the first case was detected in March.

The report tallies 252 delegates and members who were contacted as part of a follow-up effort to track COVID-19 infections. But as many as 800 officials, including staff and delegates were at the event, along with another 400 people as support staff.

Previously, Mecklenburg County health officials have said four people at the RNC — two attendees and two local support staff — were diagnosed with COVID-19 after they were tested upon arrival at the convention. As a result, county officials said, 14 people were potentially exposed and advised to quarantine.

Since then, as the Observer has previously reported, there have been no known positive tests related to the RNC in Charlotte. The RNC’s report appears to indicate that three of the four previously-reported cases were among people who tested positive at home and ultimately did not attend the RNC. Before the convention, 433 at-home tests manufactured by LabCorp were sent to delegates and staff, according to the report.

One person, an intern, tested positive in Charlotte and was “immediately quarantined,” along with their close contacts, the report states. Two other people, RNC officials say, tested positive in Charlotte ahead of any gatherings and were isolated before going home.

The new report notes “inconsistent” compliance with mask-wearing rules in a list of suggestions for future events. Those suggestions include: be prepared to remind attendees to wear masks, and have more staff and more time to plan.

Face coverings were required for delegates, and they were instructed to sit six feet apart to maintain social distancing. Yet those precautions quickly fell by the wayside at the Charlotte Convention Center, with delegates at multiple times clamoring to the stage or gathering in close-knit groups. And many attendees inside were seen not wearing masks.

Delegates also had regular health screenings, including “daily symptom tracking” and temperature checks, according to RNC plans. The convention, along with local hospital health care workers, deployed rapid antigen COVID-19 testing to reduce the risk of exposure. RNC officials also used high-tech badges for each attendee in order to track close contacts in the event of a positive coronavirus case.

Mecklenburg Public Health Director Gibbie Harris on Aug. 25 had assured residents there were “no known incidences during the 5 days of RNC meetings in Charlotte where the public has potentially been exposed to an individual involved in the event (local or otherwise) who may have tested positive for COVID.”

RNC officials say they used follow-up health screening surveys after the event to check with attendees at intervals of five, 14 and 21 days after.

“Compliance with the survey was 63%, 80%, and 75% on respective days. Three people had signs and symptoms consistent with COVID-19. These individuals were contacted by the convention (Chief Medical Officer) CMO. Two had other sources of their signs and symptoms, and one contracted COVID-19 from a known contact at his home during the week after the convention,” according to the report released this week.

The after-action report detailed the challenges of hosting a large in-person gathering in Charlotte amid the pandemic.

And, plans changed several times on where the RNC would hold its nomination of President Donald Trump and how many people would be allowed to attend.

“As a general statement, more time in the planning process would have been preferable and would have enhanced operational areas of event execution,” RNC officials wrote in the report. “The majority of the issues stemmed from the basic fact that there was no pre-existing road map to successful event planning in the midst of a global pandemic.”

Dr. Jeffrey Runge, the RNC’s senior adviser for health and safety planning, told the Charlotte City Council in August the drastically scaled-down convention was still “high risk” as attendees traveled from across the country to renominate Trump.