“We are currently under a statewide executive order by the governor,” said Curry, a former chairman of the state Republican Party. “Facilities cannot participate in any thing over 50 percent capacity. That’s where we are right now. So we are just to continue to evaluate as we move towards that date. In the meantime, the immediate focus is slowing, stopping the spread, protecting our health care hospital systems and protecting the volunteers.”
Curry last week issued a mask-wearing order ahead of the convention. The Republican National Committee is expected to release its convention safety plans in the coming days, and it announced this week in a memo that “everyone attending the convention within the perimeter will be tested and temperature checked each day.”
Republicans familiar with the event’s planning say they’re still drafting plans for a full convention, as Trump initially wanted, but they’re also discussing backup plans that could account for a 50 percent-filled arena in Jacksonville, which seats 15,000 currently.
“There’s no question we can sell this thing out, but the question is whether we really want to, given the circumstances,” said one Florida Republican, who was not authorized to speak for the convention but has participated in talks about it.
“The fact is no one knows what this is going to look like in late August. The president wants a full convention, but whether he’ll pressure DeSantis to do that if the numbers look this horrible is iffy.”
Trump said in late May he wanted a full convention, after conflict with North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper over the proposed event in Charlotte.
“Democrat Governor, @RoyCooperNC is still in Shutdown mood & unable to guarantee that by August we will be allowed……full attendance in the Arena,” Trump wrote in a series of tweets before deciding to have his nominating speech in Jacksonville.
Some “official business” events will still be held in Charlotte, but the main event will now be in Jacksonville, which has created financial pressures for the party, The New York Times reported.
Spokesmen for the RNC and Trump campaign did not return emails for comment, nor would DeSantis’s press office when asked about whether he would waive the crowd-limitation rule in Jacksonville.
Coronavirus cases in Jacksonville have not increased at the levels seen in Miami, but it cut close to home for Curry, who said he’s in self-imposed quarantine because he was near someone who tested positive for Covid-19. Curry tested negative for coronavirus.
Curry’s decision to implement a mask requirement has drawn a lawsuit from a local business owner. The main attorney on the lawsuit is Republican state Rep. Anthony Sabatini, who is involved in similar lawsuits across the state including one in Leon County, home of the state capital of Tallahassee.
Curry indicated he’s putting his faith in mask usage to reduce coronavirus caseloads and avoid another lockdown that would only impose additional “economic pain.”
“As a city, we only have a few tools at our disposal,” Curry said. “The easy tools are wearing a mask and avoiding large crowds.”
But as for regulating the size of those convention crowds? Curry pointed to DeSantis for that decision.