Cohen to RNC: More safety plan details needed for Charlotte convention

North Carolina news

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – The secretary of North Carolina’s health department says the Republican National Convention needs “several scenarios planned” if the event is to go on as scheduled in August.

Dr. Mandy Cohen, secretary of the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, has been in correspondence with the RNC over the event scheduled for Aug. 24-27 in Charlotte.

In a letter addressed to RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel and President Marica Lee Kelly, Cohen said she appreciated the conversations surrounding safety at the event.

“We have appreciated our conversations with you and the Convention Committee staff, and your acknowledgement that a successful convention this August will need to be scaled back and require significant measures to protect the health and safety of delegates and participants, as well as the health of the people of North Carolina,” Cohen wrote.

Cohen’s letter comes as the RNC provided a safety plan late Thursday that included the following protocols:

  • Pre-travel health surveys through our partnership with local health care providers
  • Daily health care questionnaires delivered via an app
  • Thermal scans of all mandatory attendees prior to boarding sanitized, pre-arranged transportation
  • Anti-bacterial gel will be widely available
  • Aggressive sanitizing protocol for all public areas
  • Our planned transportation buses will be dropped off at the Charlotte Convention Center which will act as a mandatory hub for a final health care screening by health care officials
  • All attendees would have to pass a clean health check prior to entering the dedicated chute to the Spectrum Arena — where all attendees would then be processed through normal United States Secret Service screening with normal event queue lines
  • Media suites and hospitality areas will be subject to food service guidelines similar to any other restaurant

Masks were not mentioned in the RNC’s plan.

The letter gave Gov. Cooper a deadline of June 3 to respond with additional guidelines. President Donald Trump has said he wants to know by next week if the governor can guarantee the convention can be held at “full attendance” or he could move the convention somewhere else.

“The CDC currently has interim guidance regarding mass gatherings which details a number of safety protocols that organizers of major events should utilize amid this pandemic,” Cohen wrote Friday. “We would ask that the RNC further elaborate on its plans to protect convention participants and the people of Charlotte in accordance with the CDC guidance.”

Cohen asked that the RNC respond with answers to the following questions:

  • How many delegates, alternates, elected officials, guests and media do you expect to be in attendance inside the Spectrum Center for each night of the Convention?
  • How does the RNC plan to have participants social distance while in the Spectrum Center?
  • How will the RNC implement health screenings, social distancing, face coverings, hand hygiene and other cleaning protocols at all RNC sanctioned events in the Charlotte area?
  • You indicated a desire from President Trump to hold Thursday’s nomination event with “people together in a crowdlike setting” and without social distancing or face coverings for attendees. While the letter did not address this specifically, is this still the intent?
  • You also mentioned testing for all participants before they enter the Spectrum Center for the Thursday event. Is this still a consideration? Would this be limited to Thursday night or would it apply to the other nights of the Convention?
  • How will the RNC isolate individuals who do not pass the thermal and health screenings outlined in the letter?
  • How will contact tracing be conducted for others with whom they may have come in contact?
  • Given the evidence of asymptomatic spread of COVID-19, what additional precautions will the RNC take to prevent spread of the virus?

Cohen said the COVID-19 situation in North Carolina continues to evolve and that several scenarios need to be planned so the proper one can be used depending on the situation in August.

In an interview on former Republican North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory’s radio show Friday morning, McDaniel said she’s grown “frustrated” by the situation

“I think there is a little bit of gamesmanship going on at this point. I didn’t earlier, but now I do,” she said, adding she doesn’t feel that way about local officials in Charlotte but thinks that about officials at the state level.

Cooper has called attention to the protocols developed by NASCAR in consultation with state officials before holding the Coca-Cola 600 without fans in attendance last weekend. To view that document, click here.

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