The Democratic National Convention will technically still be in Milwaukee, but as more of a hub for virtual events than a traditional event.
The decision throws Jacksonville, and its plans to have a full-scale nominating event for President Donald Trump at the largely-relocated Republican National Convention, into sharp relief.
With the COVID-19 pandemic thought to be under control, Jacksonville’s Republican Mayor, Lenny Curry, pushed for the relocation after North Carolina couldn’t guarantee a no-mask, full arena in late August.
Enter Duval County, a battleground area thrown into national prominence around the time Curry decided to open the beaches, with the #FloridaMorons tag trending on Twitter, and Gov. Ron DeSantis repeatedly invoking Jacksonville as a success story in his “safe, smart, step by step” reopening.
Jacksonville, like the rest of Florida, may have hoped it was done with the worst of COVID-19. But COVID-19 is not done with them.
Record high numbers of cases have become a daily expectation for reporters, who know the justifications by heart, the arguments that a case today isn’t the same as a case in March or April, because the average patient is younger and therefore less prone to “acuity.”
In Jacksonville, as the rest of the state, media voices anxieties about the case count and a 13% positive test rate (a staggering metric compared to just weeks ago, before bars reopened), anxieties that echo against the unique backdrop of a full-scale national convention.
Mayor Curry is less than moved by concerns that the RNC may be a super-spreader scene.
“We are still two months out from that event,” Curry said Wednesday, saying that “in the meantime, we have to focus on what’s happening in the city and what we can control.”
“Let’s do what we can today … and we’ll continue to monitor the situation,” Curry said.
He continued, chastising people for “going into a bar without a mask on” and then having the temerity to “complain” about the Convention.
Some are also concerned about the convention come to a city with a history replete with racist constructs and racial inequities, where protests over injustice persist.
Two polls, one from the University of North Florida and another from Republican Voters against Trump, show opposition to the event outweighs support, with the UNF poll spotlighting concerns that the event would be a virus vector and that public safety would be under siege amidst civil unrest.
The UNF poll showed that Mayor Curry himself was underwater with respondents, who at least in theory will never see his name on a ballot again.
Convention planners locally continue to move ahead, planning for an event drawing 15,000 to the arena alone. They did not comment when asked through a spokesperson Wednesday about the Democratic changes and how they would affect planning.
However, as the Jacksonville Daily Record reports, they have to move forward trying to fill gaps quickly to accommodate the event as if it will be full-scale regardless of where coronavirus is.
Mike Weinstein, who led the effort a decade and a half ago to stage Jacksonville’s only Super Bowl, spotlighted logistical hurdles.
“[Y]ou throw in a lack of timing and the pandemic issues, this is a real challenge. And I’m sure we’re up to it, but it’s going to take a lot of work.”