Jacksonville, site of Republican convention, to require masks indoors and in public

Residents and visitors in Jacksonville, Fla., will be required to wear masks indoors and in public spaces to help slow the spread of the coronavirus, the city announced Monday, potentially complicating President Trump’s desire to hold the Republican National Convention there in August without masks or social distancing.

The mandatory mask policy will take effect at 5 p.m. on Monday, city officials said. It’s unclear how long it will remain in place.

“At 5 p.m. today, the City of Jacksonville will be adopting a mandatory mask requirement for public & indoor locations, and in other situations where individuals cannot socially distance,” the city tweeted. “Please continue to practice personal responsibility to help stop the spread of this virus.”

The GOP announced earlier this month that the main events surrounding this year’s convention, including Trump’s speech accepting the party’s nomination, would take place in Jacksonville.

“The RNC is committed to holding a safe convention that fully complies with local health regulations in place at the time,” an RNC spokesperson said in a statement. “The event is still two months away, and we are planning to offer health precautions including but not limited to temperature checks, available PPE, aggressive sanitizing protocols, and available COVID-19 testing.

“We have a great working relationship with local leadership in Jacksonville and the state of Florida, and we will continue to coordinate with them in the months ahead,” the spokesperson added.

The change in location followed squabbling with the governor of North Carolina over whether the massive gathering could take place in Charlotte, its originally planned location, without social distancing precautions.

Trump is scheduled to deliver his speech on Aug. 27 at the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena, which holds around 15,000 people.

The president had demanded the Republican convention be allowed to move forward without restrictions on crowd size, and he opposed the idea of requiring masks or spacing out attendees. North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper (D) indicated he would not be able to commit to those terms given the uncertainty of the pandemic, and the two sides were unable to reach an agreement.

But Florida’s handling of the coronavirus has cast a cloud over the event. The state has seen record numbers of cases over the past several days as it struggles to get new outbreaks under control. 

The state banned the on-site consumption of alcohol at bars in a reversal of some of its reopening measures in an attempt to contain the new cases.

Updated at 4:44 p.m.

Tags 2020 campaign 2020 republican convention Coronavirus Donald Trump GOP jacksonville Masks Republican National Convention
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