WASHINGTON (CN) — A little over a week after the Republican National Committee announced it had scaled back plans for its August convention in Jacksonville, Florida, President Donald Trump said Thursday the GOP’s meeting had officially been canceled.
“I could see the media saying, ‘Oh this is very unsafe,’ I don’t want to be in that position,” Trump said of canceling the convention. “It’s safety. Not because of the media, but that’s what they would say, and we’ll have a very nice something, we’ll figure it out. It’ll be online in some form.”
Trump’s announcement comes as Florida continues to break daily infection and death records, as more residents succumb to Covid-19. Deaths totaled 173 in the state on Thursday, while adding 10,249 cases to the state’s infected; a daily record added to the record set Thursday of 4 million sick with the virus nationwide.
The convention’s legality already was questioned by state litigators, who sued Jacksonville earlier this month, arguing the campaign had moved to Florida in an attempt to shirk compliance with safety practices.
For example, the complaint states, at Trump’s rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, staff removed signs on arena seats meant to keep people apart —when only 6,500 attended, those individuals were corralled into a compact area, “and like Mr. Trump, the great majority did not wear masks.”
“Statistically, at least 1% – 10% of the attendees at the convention will already be infected and contagious with or without symptoms and will infect other attendees and persons then come in contact with throughout the community,” the complaint states.
Trump said he had not spoken to Florida officials about his decision, only adding that the timing of the event was not right, as cases continued to rise in the state.
“It’s hard for us to say, ‘We’re going to have a lot of people packed in a room’ and then, other people shouldn’t,” he said.
The party will still make its nomination in Charlotte, North Carolina on Aug. 24, Trump saying televised events would also be continuing throughout the week. Trump will also make a convention speech, though he did not elaborate on how it would be viewed or distributed.
Trump also used Thursday’s briefing to discuss the upcoming academic year, saying the administration was looking for a way to safely reopen schools and protect teachers. Many educators in the country are preparing to return to classrooms while preparing living wills.
“Fortunately, the data shows that children are lower risk from the China virus, very substantially,” Trump said. “When children do contract the virus, they often have only very mild symptoms, or none at all and medical complications are exceedingly rare.”
Joe Biden, the assumed Democratic nominee for the 2020 presidential election, said in a statement Thursday the record number of infected individuals in the country reflected Trump’s leadership.
“It didn’t have to be this bad, but at every juncture of this crisis President Trump has failed the fundamental role of a president: the duty to care — or in his case, the ability to care about anything beyond himself and his re-election,” he said.
Mariano Rivera, a former Major League Baseball pitcher for the New York Yankees, also was present during Thursday’s briefing, although Trump never alluded to why Rivera had joined. The president said Rivera, “has children, loves children, works hard with children,” and awarded Rivera with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in September.