RALEIGH, N.C. – President Donald Trump announced Tuesday night that he is seeking a new state to host this summer’s Republican National Convention after North Carolina refused to guarantee the event could be held in Charlotte without restrictions because of ongoing concerns over the coronavirus.
Trump announced the news via tweet, complaining the state’s governor, Democrat Roy Cooper, and other officials “refuse to guarantee that we can have use of the Spectrum Arena" and were not “allowing us to occupy the arena as originally anticipated and promised.”
“Because of @NC_Governor, we are now forced to seek another State to host the 2020 Republican National Convention,” he wrote.
Trump and the Republican National Committee had been demanding that the convention be allowed to move forward with a full crowd and no face coverings — raising alarms in a state that is facing an upward trend in its virus cases, with about 29,900 cumulative cases and 900 deaths as of Tuesday. Around 700 COVID-19 patients are currently hospitalized. Mecklenburg County, where Charlotte is located, accounted for 4,500 cases — more than double the next-highest county — and nearly 100 deaths.
“We have been committed to a safe RNC convention in North Carolina and it’s unfortunate they never agreed to scale down and make changes to keep people safe,” Cooper tweeted in response to the decision. “Protecting public health and safety during this pandemic is a priority.”
A traditional GOP convention brings together roughly 2,500 delegates, the same number of alternate delegates and many times more guests, journalists and security personnel. Officials in both parties have been preparing contingency plans for months given the uncertainty and dangers posed by the virus and evolving restrictions on large gatherings meant to slow the spread of COVID-19.
Trump's announcement came after a call with Cooper Friday in which the president had told Cooper he wanted a traditional convention with a packed arena full of delegates — and with no face coverings to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
During the call, when Trump “insisted on a full convention arena with no face coverings and no social distancing the governor expressed concerns and suggested a scaled back event with fewer attendees,” Cooper spokeswoman Sadie Weiner wrote in an email. “They agreed to continue talking about ways to have a safe convention in Charlotte.”