JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – After sources denied reports last week that at least some of the Republican National Convention would be held at outdoor venues in Jacksonville due to the coronavirus pandemic, the New York Times is citing sources saying President Trump and party officials have made a decision to move the RNC outdoors to avoid mask rules and allow social distancing.
Outside TIAA Bank Field on Tuesday, groups could be seen scouting the stadium, which would offer far more space to spread out the anticipated 15,000 people currently scheduled to crowd into the VyStar Veteran’s Memorial Arena the last week of August.
In addition to the stadium, Daily’s Place and the field where the Jumbo Shrimp play, recently renamed 121 Financial Ballpark, are located in Jacksonville’s Sports Complex.
The Times cites “people familiar with the discussions” saying President Trump and Republican officials decided Monday night to move the three nights of the convention to be held in Jacksonville -- including Trump’s nomination and acceptance speech -- outdoors. The same sources added that since Trump often shifts his positions, this plan could change.
At a news conference Tuesday, Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry would not confirm whether reports of moving the RNC outdoors. He said it’s too early to make any sort of declaration on what will happen with the RNC.
“We have many weeks until the day of the convention,” Curry said. “(We’re) monitoring the situation and will plan accordingly based on hospitalizations, community spread, etc.”
Curry also addressed questions about photos taken at a weekend event at Epping Forest where Vice President Mike Pence visited with GOP officials. One particular photo shared by Florida state Rep. Cord Byrd, who represents parts of Nassau and Duval counties, showing him and his party are seen arm in arm without masks indoors.
On Monday, Byrd said those attending the Pence event had followed all safety protocols during the meeting and this photo was taken afterward. When asked Tuesday about the photo and if attendees at the event don’t take public health seriously enough, Curry said the mask mandate is in place and should be followed. He added that citizens shouldn’t shame one another over being seen without a mask.
“Check yourself on the shaming of people and blasting people all over social media. Let’s work together and come together as a community,” Curry said.
Curry was also asked if Jacksonville was selected as one of three federal “surge testing” sites for COVID-19 because the RNC was coming to Jacksonville next month. Curry said he has not been told that by anyone.