Politics, science at odds in argument over whether and how to hold Republican convention in Charlotte

Posted June 3, 2020 6:10 p.m. EDT
Updated June 3, 2020 6:35 p.m. EDT

Although Pres. Donald Trump tweeted that he will move the Republican National Convention out of Charlotte, the reality is more complicated.

Trump has created a conflict with Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, because Cooper won't guarantee that the RNC could fill the Spectrum Center to capacity. Cooper has said he can't commit because he doesn't know where the state will be in terms of coronavirus.

President Trump has said he wants a full-capacity crowd for 2020, like his nominating convention in 2016. Organizers say they believe they can do that safely without social distancing or requiring masks.

Republican leaders say Cooper's hesitation could cost the state $130 million.

A convention official told WRAL News Wednesday that some parts of the convention could still happen in Charlotte. The primetime elements of the convention could move elsewhere. If so, the convention would be split.

Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, who is challenging Cooper for the governor's office in November criticized his opponent, saying, "When other states' 'science and 'data' shows that it is safe to host a convention in August, it is clear the Cooper administration is playing politics."

House Speaker Tim Moore concurred. "I think it’s a real travesty, that the governor lets politics, his political beliefs, get in the way, and ruins this opportunity for the state," he said.

Dr. David Wohl, a coronavirus expert at UNC Medicine, said there is no way a traditional convention crowd can be safe without social distancing or requiring masks, and he's sorry to see the choice become politicized.

"While we may wish we can do those things and be close to one another, the reality is it's dangerous," Wohl said.

Another UNC expert, Dr. William Fischer, agreed.

"I think mass gatherings without hand hygiene, without masking – it’s a dangerous opportunity for the virus to spread," he said.

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