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Republicans scale back August convention in Jacksonville

The Republican Party will hold a scaled-back version of its convention in Jacksonville, Florida, next month, according to a letter sent to delegates Thursday morning that cited new coronavirus-related restrictions. 

Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel notified delegates in the letter, obtained by the PBS NewsHour, that attendance will be limited to regular delegates — about 2,500 people — for the first three days of the convention. Delegates, their guests and alternate delegates — about 7,000 people — will be allowed to attend on the final day of the convention, Aug. 27, when President Donald Trump will give a speech accepting the party’s nomination. 

The dramatic scaling back means the event will fall far short of what the president and convention organizers had planned: expected attendance of 50,000 and no social distancing or mask-wearing. The convention was originally set to be held in Charlotte, North Carolina, but was moved to Jacksonville after the governor of North Carolina insisted that the RNC limit attendance and adhere to health protocols. 

The Washington Post first reported the party’s move Thursday. 

Republican officials have for weeks been planning a wide variety of scenarios regarding the size and layout of the Jacksonville event. In the letter, McDaniel acknowledged holding a full-scale convention would not comply with state and local health restrictions, as daily cases of coronavirus cases hit new records in Florida.

“When we made these changes, we had hoped to be able to plan a traditional convention celebration to which we are all accustomed. However, adjustments must be made to comply with state and local health guidelines,” McDaniel wrote. 

She added organizers “plan to implement a variety of health protocols in order to ensure a safe event,” including temperature checks, protective equipment and “available COVID-19 testing.” 

The decision comes as Trump is trailing former Vice President Joe Biden in polling, including in Florida.

READ MORE: Inside the Trump campaign’s strategy for getting Black voters to the polls

“The festivities in Jacksonville are only going to build upon the incredible energy behind President Trump’s campaign, and help propel him to victory in November,” McDaniel wrote.

Republican officials see the in-person event as critical to resetting the campaign and building momentum ahead of November.

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