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Republican Convention To Mandate Masks, Track Attendees' Movements

Instead of meeting inside Charlotte, N.C.'s downtown arena, the Republican National Committee will hold scaled-down meetings inside the city's convention center.
Skip Foreman
Instead of meeting inside Charlotte, N.C.'s downtown arena, the Republican National Committee will hold scaled-down meetings inside the city's convention center.

Delegates at the scaled-back Republican National Convention later this month in Charlotte, N.C., must wear masks, and the GOP plans to track everyone's movements with badges equipped with Bluetooth technology.

The special badges will allow officials to find out whom they came in contact with if someone later gets sick from the coronavirus, said Jeffrey Runge, the convention's health consultant.

That will make contact tracing easier, he said.

"It knows when other badges are close to it. And how long they are close to it. And the identity of who is wearing it is in a database," Runge said. "No one will ever crack that code, unless somebody gets sick."

The health plan is stark contrast to an earlier proposal for the RNC's Charlotte convention. In June, President Trump wanted the city's Spectrum Center full, and he didn't want people wearing masks and standing 6 feet apart.

North Carolina's Democratic governor, Roy Cooper, pushed back against a full arena. That led the GOP to try to move most of its convention – including all speeches — to Jacksonville, Fla.

When coronaviruses cases spiked in Florida – and with local officials concerned about providing security for the event – Republicans canceled the Jacksonville convention last month.

Trump now says he will deliver his acceptance speech either at the White House or in Gettysburg, Pa.

Republicans will be back in Charlotte for what they say is a "business-only" convention. The GOP is bringing just 336 delegates, along with a few other officials.

Instead of meeting inside the city's downtown arena, they will formally nominate the president for a second term on Aug. 24 inside the Charlotte Convention Center.

Before coming to Charlotte, all attendees will be given a self-swab test for the coronavirus. And before they check in to their hotels, everyone will be given a second test.

Republicans hope that will create something of a bubble. But Runge said the gathering of roughly 500 people is still one of the largest events in the country, outside of professional sports.

"This is a high-risk event," he said. "Again, it doesn't compare to the event that would have taken place had we had 50,000 people. But it is still a high-risk event. People are coming in from every state in the country."

In addition to requiring masks, Runge said delegates must practice social distancing.

"The chairs do not move in the meeting rooms," he said. "The configuration of the meeting room is to be 6 feet apart."

It's unclear if any of the meetings will be open to the media. Runge didn't mention reporters during a presentation Monday night to the Charlotte City Council, and the RNC's 42-page health plan doesn't refer to the media.

The Democratic National Convention was supposed to begin next week in Milwaukee. But former Vice President Joe Biden recently said he won't travel to Wisconsin, meaning the event will be virtual.

Copyright 2020 WFAE