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North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper

Republicans will severely restrict attendance at the August GOP nominating convention, according to a letter from Republican National Committee chair Ronna McDaniel.

According to the Associated Press, only RNC delegates will be allowed to attend the first three nights of the convention, which will now take place in Jacksonville, Florida. On the fourth night, when Donald Trump is expected to accept the nomination, alternate delegates can join delegates, as well as a guest for each.

The news comes six weeks after North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper advised the RNC to reduce the number of attendees if the group wanted to hold the convention in Charlotte, the original location.

In late May, the RNC had demanded Cooper allow a full convention to go forward with as many as 19,000 people at Charlotte's Spectrum Arena with no face mask or social distancing requirements.

"The people of North Carolina do not know what the status of COVID-19 will be in August, so planning for a scaled-down convention with fewer people, social distancing and face coverings is a necessity," Cooper responded in a letter to the RNC on June 2.

"Neither public health officials nor I will risk the health and safety of North Carolinians by providing the guarantee you seek," he added.

In response to Cooper's letter, Trump announced the convention would leave the state.

"Had long planned to have the Republican National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, a place I love," Trump tweeted. Because Cooper refused "to guarantee that we can have use of the Spectrum Arena … we are now forced to seek another State to host the 2020 Republican National Convention," he added.

RNC officials settled on Jacksonville, but the move has been plagued with difficulties.

Soon after the decision was made, coronavirus cases surged across Florida. The state was one of the first to reopen businesses early, amid the pandemic, a decision that likely contributed to the increase in cases, according to health experts.

"More people are out and about," Dr. Mary Jo Trepka, Florida International University's top epidemiologist, told CNN on June 24 about the spike in cases. "That has most likely contributed to it."

On the day of Trepka's interview, Florida had added 3,286 new cases.

On Sunday, Florida added 15,299 new cases, the highest one-day total in any state since the pandemic began.

The sharp increase of cases in many states was "inevitable," Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's leading infectious disease expert and member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, said on Wednesday. He said the numbers were likely the result of "people at bars with no masks, congregating in crowds."

Venues in Florida must operate at 50% capacity, according to an executive order signed on June 3 by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis. And Jacksonville recently instituted a requirement that face masks be worn indoors.

Despite the same restrictions in Florida that Cooper requested in North Carolina, Republicans are determined to move forward with the in-person convention.

"We can gather and put on a top-notch event that celebrates the incredible accomplishments of President Trump's administration and his re-nomination for a second term — while also doing so in a safe and responsible manner," McDaniel wrote.

But rather than a crowd of 19,000 Trump wanted, it will likely be much, much smaller.

There will be about 2,500 delegates and roughly the same number of alternate delegates. If each of those is allowed one guest, the crowd size would be 10,000, about half as large as Trump had hoped for.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

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