Jacksonville implements safety rules Trump tried to avoid for GOP convention


Trump moved the Republican convention from Charlotte, North Carolina, because the city was requiring face masks. Now, Jacksonville is requiring masks as well.

Donald Trump upended planning for the Republican National Convention earlier this month when he moved part of the event to Jacksonville, Florida, from Charlotte, North Carolina, in order to avoid coronavirus safety regulations in the latter state.

At the time, North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper would not guarantee a full-capacity event, due to limits on gatherings resulting from the pandemic, and had required everyone in public indoor spaces in the city to wear face masks to stop the spread of the virus.

Trump announced the convention would be moved to a different city hours after Cooper gave notice of the restrictions.

Republican officials announced earlier this month that part of the convention, namely Trump's speech to accept the GOP nomination, would subsequently be moved to Jacksonville, which did not previously require the same kinds of safety measures as Charlotte.

However the city of Jacksonville said Monday it is now requiring face masks at all public and indoor locations, potentially upending Trump's plan to show off a packed event with mask-less revelers.

The Jacksonville ordinance requiring masks comes after a major spike in coronavirus cases in Florida.

The seven-day positivity average in Florida is 15.6%, according to data from John's Hopkins University, far higher than the 5% positivity rate that public health experts say is safe to allow a phased reopening.

The Republican National Committee responded to the new requirement this week, saying it would follow all "local health regulations in place at the time" of the event, but noted that "the event is still two months away."

The convention is currently scheduled to take place from Aug. 24 to Aug. 27.

"...We are planning to offer health precautions including but not limited to temperature checks, available P.P.E., aggressive sanitizing protocols, and available Covid-19 testing," RNC officials told the New York Times this week.

Trump has not yet commented publicly on the change in safety measures.

As cases increase, health experts say masks are a great way to slow the spread of the virus.

However Trump has so far refused to wear one himself. And some Republicans have turned it into a partisan issue, with Republican voters now more likely to say they won't wear a mask either.

A Gallup poll from May 13 found 46% of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents said they never wear masks, while 49% of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents said they always wear masks.

Few rally-goers at Trump's campaign rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, earlier this month wore masks. At least eight staffers at that event later tested positive for coronavirus, forcing the campaign to require all who attended the rally to get tested as well.

Holding Trump's acceptance speech in Jacksonville could pose other risks to Trump's reelection bid.

Multiple polls have found that Jacksonville residents do not want Trump to hold the event in their city.

According to a University of North Florida poll released on June 24, 58% of voters in Jacksonville don't want the rally there, and 71% say they fear the event could cause the virus to spread.

And angering Jacksonville residents could spell further trouble for Trump, who wants to keep Florida in his Electoral College column. Jacksonville is located in the key swing county of Duval, which Trump won narrowly in 2016.

The University of North Florida poll from June 24 found presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden leading Trump in the county, 48% to 41%.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.