CHARLOTTE, N.C. – President Donald Trump’s demand for a full-capacity Republican convention in August is putting pressure on North Carolina health officials — and local Republicans — as coronavirus cases surge in the host county and statewide.
Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper's administration has refused to give in, though, responding with a letter demanding a written safety plan from organizers of the Republican National Convention, slated for August in Charlotte. Even local Republican officials note that Trump doesn't have the power to unilaterally move the event scheduled to start in 90 days after two years of planning.
Asked about Trump’s tweets threatening to move the convention, Cooper said Tuesday he’s “not surprised at anything that happens on Twitter,” without mentioning the president by name. He said discussions with RNC organizers are continuing.
“We have asked them to present a plan on paper to us laying out the various options that we’ve already discussed," Cooper said. "They know we’re talking about a time that’s three months from now, so we have to have options regarding how this convention is going to be run depending on where we are with the virus in August.”
State Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy Cohen's letter signed Monday asks Republican convention organizers for a written COVID-19 safety plan “as soon as possible,” noting that Cohen and Cooper discussed various scenarios with GOP officials by phone Friday. She wrote that it's important to plan for multiple options because the "status of COVID-19 infections in our state and in the Charlotte area continues to rapidly evolve.”
By Tuesday, Mecklenburg County had at least 3,400 COVID-19 cases — more than twice the next-highest county — and 73 deaths, also the most in the state, according to state health officials. A third of the cases were tallied in the past two weeks. County officials said hospitalized patients with COVID-19 dropped from more than 100 in April to 75 by Monday.
Statewide, there were 24,000 cases as part of an upward trend that included 1,100 new cases Saturday, the state's largest daily increase yet. Nearly 800 people have died, according to data from Johns Hopkins University, giving the state the 21st highest death count.
Trump threatened Monday to move the convention if Cooper didn't immediately agree to a full-capacity gathering. Pre-pandemic, Republicans estimated the convention would draw 50,000 visitors.