Just over a month before the Republican National Committee is set to host President Trump's nomination acceptance speech in Jacksonville, Duval County Sheriff Mike Williams is casting doubt on whether the Republican National Convention can be held safely. With just 35 days until the headliner event, Williams said he has "significant concerns with the viability of the event."
"With a growing list of challenges—be it finances, communication and timeline, I cannot say with confidence that this event and our community will not be at risk," Williams said in a statement Monday. "We knew some months back that this effort was going to be a huge lift…with a timetable that was aggressive to say the least, the communication required to make the critical steps come together just never seemed to gel. And still has not."
Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry told reporters Tuesday that he agrees with Williams' assessment but added that Williams is continuing to work with convention planners to secure resources that will allow his team to plan a safe event. Curry added that the sheriff's concerns came as no surprise because the two are in "constant communication" regarding public safety. According to the mayor's team, Jacksonville has requested roughly $35 million from the Department of Justice through a securities grant and expects to be notified about the awarding of the budget grant in the coming days.
Curry, who served as the chair of the Florida GOP when the state hosted the party's 2012 national convention in Tampa, noted that while there would still be a positive economic impact with the scaled-back convention, it's clear that the city won't experience the same type of economic boost that the convention has brought in years past.
CBS News has reported that the city has been planning for the national convention for nearly a month, since the RNC announced in mid-June that it would host President Trump's nomination acceptance speech in Jacksonville. According to data released by the state's Division of Emergency Management, the county now has more than 17,000 reported cases—the sixth highest of any county in the state. The upward trend tracks with a statewide increase in cases as Florida has reported more than 360,000 positive cases of COVID-19 throughout the state.
The Republican Party has made some changes to its original plans, announcing last week that the convention would have to be scaled down and would "utilize a number of indoor and outdoor venues" in Jacksonville for the event. Vice President Pence has also suggested that the event might be held outside.
The Jacksonville Host Committee for the Republican National Convention announced Thursday that convention admission would be limited to regular delegates for the first three days. On the final day, when President Trump will accept the nomination of his party, delegates, their guests, and alternate delegates can attend. In a memo obtained by CBS News, the RNC said there would be an area outside of the convention venue, designated as the "Festival Venue Area," that will be accessible to all delegates, alternates, and guests Monday through Thursday. The committee also announced health measures for the convention, which will include on-site temperature checks, available PPE, sanitizing protocols, and available COVID-19 testing. According to the memo, every potential convention participant attending in Charlotte or Jacksonville will be sent an in-home COVID-19 test paid for by the RNC. Only participants who test negative will be allowed to attend the convention activities.
The city of Jacksonville enacted a mandatory mask requirement in June. According to the RNC memo, the team will "follow the local and state health guidelines in place at the time of the convention."
The RNC said in a statement Monday it's still working with Jacksonville's local leaders on convention planning and remains optimistic about the convention.
"Jacksonville has accommodated upwards of 70,000 people for football games and other events, and we are confident in state, local and federal officials to be able to ensure a safe event for our attendees," sad RNC spokesperson Mandi Merritt.
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