The Republican National Committee and the organizers of its national convention sent North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper a letter on Thursday that outlined its proposals to safely conduct the planned August gathering.
The letter laid out a set of protocols the RNC is willing to implement in order to hold its convention in Charlotte, North Carolina. It comes just days after President Donald Trump turned up the heat on Cooper, a Democrat, for not moving his state into a more advanced reopening in order to allow the convention to happen, with the President threatening to move it elsewhere if it couldn’t be held in Charlotte.
The letter to Cooper outlines eight safety protocols the convention organizers plan to implement, including access to antibacterial gel, pre-travel health surveys and health screenings at the event. It does not mention other protocols recommended by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, like the wearing of masks or implementation of social distancing practices.
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North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy Cohen responded in a letter to the RNC and convention organizers on Friday, requesting a response to a list of bullet point questions about what specific plans will be put in place to allow the convention to take place under CDC guidelines, including how many people will be in attendance. Cohen also asks that organizers outline how they plan to implement social distancing, face coverings, health screenings, testing of attendees and contact tracing for those who do not pass screenings.
“The State continues to support the hosting of the Republican National Convention in Charlotte if it can be done safely,” Cohen wrote. “We remain committed to working with you on an event that adequately protects both attendees and the people of North Carolina.”
Facial coverings and social distancing appear to be a specific point of contention between the two sides. Cohen points out in her letter that in the last planning meeting, RNC leaders said that it was President Trump’s desire to hold the convention in a “crowd like setting without social distancing or face coverings”. The letter asks if this is still the intent of the convention planners.
Cooper’s office said the talks between the two sides will continue.
“North Carolina will continue working with the RNC to ensure the convention can be held safely,” said Sadie Weiner, Cooper’s communications director
Meanwhile, during an interview on WBT Radio in Charlotte, RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel made it clear the two sides were not nearing a compromise.
“I am frustrated because I was concerned it was going to get political, you know, it’s the Republican Convention coming to a state with a Democrat Governor,” McDaniel said. “And I was worried about that and I really hoped it wouldn’t get that way. But at this point, with the dragging of feet, with the inability to work with us to get us a plan, it does start to feel like this is political.”
The RNC made it clear in its letter on Thursday that time is of the essence and it needs a definitive answer from Cooper as soon as possible. The letter alluded to Trump’s threats to move the convention elsewhere if the state is not sufficiently reopened for the event to take place.
“We still do not have good guidelines from the State and we cannot in good faith ask thousands of visitors to begin paying deposits and making travel plans without knowing the full commitment of the Governor, elected officials and other stakeholders in supporting the convention,” the letter reads.
The letter was the result of a request by Cooper and his Department of Health and Human Services, as North Carolina officials weigh what, if any, type of convention could take place in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic. The letter is not the full plan the RNC plans to eventually implement, but instead the beginning of the process.
The RNC and North Carolina officials have been in ongoing talks about the state of the convention and have discussed a wide range of options to put on the event successfully.
But talks took a tense turn when Trump began to suggest that Cooper might purposely delay reopening the state in order to stymie the Republican nominating event, a notion that the governor flatly rejects. The situation became even more urgent on Monday, when the President issued a series of tweets demanding clarity from the state over whether the convention could be put on or he would move the event elsewhere.
Earlier on Thursday, Cooper told reporters that he felt confident the convention could be conducted safely.
“We’re ready to hold the RNC convention in North Carolina in a safe way. The health experts in our office have had conversations with people organizing the RNC about how to have it in a safe way,” Cooper said.
This story has been updated with a response from North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy Cohen on Friday.