With coronavirus cases in Florida soaring and Gov. Ron DeSantis cracking down on mass gatherings, next month's GOP convention could look drastically different than what was planned.
NBC News reported that DeSantis, a strong backer of President Donald Trump, may take a cautionary approach to the Aug. 24-27 event rather than one that welcomes attendees — including Trump himself — with open arms.
The state does not allow sports stadiums to be filled at more than 50% capacity at the moment, which means VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, the site of the convention, would be half-empty at most.
Florida saw a record 15,300 new confirmed COVID-19 cases on Sunday, followed by 12,624 on Monday. The state is now third in the U.S. behind New York and California in terms of the number of cases, with 282,425 as of Tuesday morning. Nearly 4,300 people in Florida have died because of the virus.
A spokesman for Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry, a Republican, told NBC on Monday that DeSantis holds the power to allow the convention to happen at full capacity.
"Mayor would not have to sign off," spokesperson Marjorie Dennis said.
DeSantis' office did not say whether the governor will pull back the order requiring large indoor gatherings to stay below 50% capacity.
The convention was originally slated to be held in Charlotte, North Carolina, but the state's Gov. Roy Cooper told the Republican National Committee that the event would need to adhere to strict social distancing and mask-wearing protocols, which Trump balked at.
Florida's COVID-19 case count started ticking up in early June as the state reopened from several weeks of closures designed to help contain the virus. With people flocking to beaches, bars, and restaurants, the numbers have spiked. Duval County, in which Jacksonville lies, has seen nearly 14,000 cases to date.
It was reported last week that the convention could be moved to an outside venue in Jacksonville, which could help prevent some spread of the virus with thousands of people packed into one place.
Trump said during a recent interview that he is "very flexible" about holding the convention in the Jacksonville arena.
"We can do a lot of things, but we're very flexible," he said. "When we signed a few weeks ago, it looked good. And now all of a sudden it's spiking up a little but ... that's going to go down."
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