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Iowa Democratic Party delays county conventions over coronavirus

Iowa Democratic Party delays county conventions over coronavirus
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The Iowa Democratic Party (IDP) announced Friday that it would delay its county conventions over concerns about the coronavirus outbreak. 

The IDP did not specify when it would hold the county conventions, which had been scheduled for March 21.

“Today, the Iowa Democratic Party is announcing it will postpone County Conventions to a future date to be determined," IDP Chair Mark Smith said in a statement. "After extensive consultation with County Chairs, the State Central Committee, party leaders, and public health officials, we have come to the determination that the spreading coronavirus poses a risk that outweighs a temporary delay in moving the caucus-to-convention process forward."

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The IDP said it was concerned that the conventions, which are formatted as caucuses, would be particularly dangerous amid the coronavirus pandemic. Caucuses often entail large gatherings of people coming together to choose which candidate they will support for a specific office. 

“This is not an easy decision, but we believe it is the right decision. By their design, caucuses are gatherings built around a sense of community, and throughout every step, we have worked to ensure the process is safe and accessible for every Iowan," Smith said.

"However, Iowa Democrats should not have to choose between democratic participation and remaining in good health," he added, "and concerns for the wellbeing of our delegates, thousands of volunteers, workers at convention venues, and the public come first."

The delay is the latest stumbling block for the IDP, which was hit with an avalanche of criticism over its bungling of the presidential caucuses last month. 

The news from the IDP comes as the coronavirus rapidly spreads across the country, killing over 40 people in the U.S. alone. Iowa has 17 confirmed cases of the illness, according to The New York Times’s tracker.