Four at RNC in Charlotte test positive for coronavirus

Two attendees and two staffers contracted to work at the Republican National Convention in Charlotte have tested positive for the coronavirus, local health officials said Friday.

Mecklenburg County officials said the four people were isolated and that those with whom they came into contact had been alerted. The health department did not say whether any had shown symptoms of the virus. The two staffers were sent home before attending any convention functions.

Charlotte officials had raised concerns over the lack of social distancing measures taken at even the scaled-back convention, where only a few hundred Republicans gathered to formally renominate President Trump and Vice President Pence. Video of the event showed few people wearing masks and many posing close together for photographs.

But Republicans did take precautions, using special badges that logged their movement in case contact tracers needed to alert them about possible infections.

“We had diligent safety protocols in place, including testing all attendees before arriving in Charlotte, and again upon arrival. Out of roughly 1,000 tests administered, two RNC attendees, despite having negative tests prior to travel, and two Charlotte locals who planned to serve as event support staff tested positive upon arrival. All were sent home,” said Michael Ahrens, the Republican National Committee’s communications director.

The RNC said masks and social distancing practices were in place, though images from the convention showed attendees gathering close together for selfies and conversation. Attendees were required to have their temperature taken daily, and they completed wellness questionnaires every day.

The convention has not yet proven to be any kind of super-spreader event; Mecklenburg health officials said they had conducted 792 coronavirus tests among delegates and staff, with only the four testing positive.

Most of the events for the GOP’s convention broadcast over four nights took place in Washington, D.C. It culminated with an address Thursday night by President Trump to a crowd on the White House lawn. Few in the crowd were wearing masks, and people were seated or standing close together.

Mecklenburg County has been hit hard by the coronavirus, which has infected almost 25,000 residents there. But average case counts have been falling in recent weeks, from a peak of more than 300 cases in early July to a little more than 100 new confirmed cases every day.

Health officials said the vast majority of cases, about three quarters, have been confirmed in people under the age of 60. Hispanics, and especially young Hispanic adults, are disproportionately likely to contract the virus, the health department said.

Updated: 3:10 p.m.

Tags 2020 GOP convention Coronavirus COVID-19 Donald Trump Mike Pence North Carolina
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