vision 2020

Mask Requirement Imposed by Jacksonville, Trump’s Handpicked Convention City

The arena in Jacksonville where Trump’s cheering fans may have to wear masks. Photo: Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images

No wonder our president is in a self-pitying mood. On top of his slowly but steadily eroding polling positioning for reelection against Joe Biden, it appears Trump may struggle — even after taking the extraordinary measure of changing cities at the last minute — to get a venue for the Republican National Convention where everyone’s willing to pretend the coronavirus pandemic has passed.

The president pulled the plug on all but the most obligatory convention functions in Charlotte, North Carolina, because the governor and mayor wouldn’t promise him he could give his nomination acceptance speech to a packed hall of unmasked and cheering MAGA enthusiasts. Instead, he moved the major speeches to Jacksonville, Florida, a city whose Republican governor and mayor were thrilled to be cooperative, particularly since the state was already in the process of “reopening” in the hope that the worst of the pandemic was indeed over.

Now, of course, Florida is experiencing major spikes in new coronavirus cases and is one of several Sunbelt hot spots where it’s becoming apparent that reopening was premature and deadly. And the fear of a resurgence has spread to Jacksonville. Suddenly, that cooperative city government could end up raining on Trump’s parade, as the New York Times reports:

Jacksonville, the convention’s new host, imposed a requirement on Monday that people wear masks indoors, precisely the mandate that the Republican Party had hoped to avoid for its celebrations.

The mask order is almost certain to rankle Mr. Trump, whose demands for a traditional, packed rally forced the move earlier this month to Jacksonville from Charlotte, N.C., in the first place.

It seems local officials are only willing to go so far to accommodate dangerous indoor events when the big comeback event isn’t the economy, but the coronavirus.

It is unclear how long the mask order will be in place, but it would presumably apply to the 15,000-seat VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena, where three nights of convention speeches, including Mr. Trump’s, are scheduled for Aug. 24-27.

In a telling move, Mayor Lenny Curry of Jacksonville, a Republican, who had lobbied for the convention and resisted a mask requirement, was absent from Monday’s announcement. His spokeswoman said he had a prior family obligation…

[Curry’s] policy reversal came after a morning conference call with local hospitals. Duval County, which includes Jacksonville, is now averaging about 384 new cases of the virus a day. Two weeks ago, that figure was 32.

So reality produced what led to this reversal, along with the policies established by the commander-in-chief’s own armed forces, as Politico reports:

A final turning point for Curry came after the decisions by the Coast Guard and Navy, which has two facilities in Jacksonville, to order indoor mask-wearing.

“Healthcare experts say it mitigates risk and city hall learned military installations in Jacksonville are mandating it as well,” a source said of Curry’s thinking.

And it’s not like locals eager for the business are going to pressure state and local officials to let Trump have his way. A recent survey of Jacksonville–Duval County (a consolidated city-county jurisdiction) residents showed 58 percent opposing the whole show being in their city, and 71 percent expressing concern about the public-health consequences.

It’s probably too late to move the convention again, though the safest place to hold it might well be the home town Trump abandoned recently to become a registered voter in Florida: New York City.

Trump’s Convention Plans Thwarted by Jacksonville Mask Rule