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EDITORIALS

ANOTHER VIEW: GOP Convention ranks as public health threat

Staff Writer
The News Herald
The News Herald

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It's a sad day for Jacksonville and Florida that what ought to be a celebrated national convention coming to town was called "a public nuisance."

But the lawsuit filed on behalf of a number of Jacksonville citizens makes more sense than the sketchy information communicated so far by those bringing the Republican National Convention to Jacksonville.

Plaintiffs include clergy, attorneys, business owners and people who live in the area of VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena.

After all, the convention was moved from Charlotte precisely because President Donald Trump didn't want to comply with public health restrictions.

That rally, along with protests that accompanied it, “likely contributed” to a dramatic surge in new coronavirus cases, Tulsa Health Department Director Bruce Dart said Wednesday, The Associated Press reported.

This gives Jacksonville little confidence.

In fact, a packed house in an enclosed space is the "highest risk" possible for spreading infections, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The definition of such an event involves "large in-person gatherings where it is difficult for individuals to remain spaced at least 6 feet apart and attendees travel from outside the local area."

Many other events at VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena have been canceled because "the health and safety of our guests remains our highest priority," according to jaxevents.com.

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit make a series of practical suggestions for holding such an event if it should be held at all.

1. It would make more sense to be held in the much larger outdoor venue of TIAA Bank Field where attendees could easily be spaced out with much better air flow. Of course, this is Florida in late August, so a night event would be much more comfortable.

2. If the arena is used, then attendance of the 15,000 seat arena should be limited to 2,500 persons with areas isolated to maintain 6-foot distances.

3. Everyone in or on the grounds of the arena should be required to wear masks, and those who refuse should be escorted away.

4. Surfaces should be disinfected with proper frequency.

5. Protocols should be set up to identify anyone exposed to COVID-19, is at risk or has symptoms, along with contact tracing.

6. Hand sanitizer and disinfectant should be provided to everyone.

There are other recommendations, such as adding signage and ensuring there is enough personnel to enforce the restrictions.

If all of these public health steps seem burdensome to convention organizers, then they ought to take steps to conduct as much as possible of the convention virtually.

President Donald Trump loves his adoring crowds but he's also a reality TV veteran. Conventions in modern times don't decide primary races, they are massive marketing devices. That still can be done virtually.

Jacksonville has seen a surge of coronavirus cases since reopening steps were started. A 1.6 percent positive rate for tests increased to 14 percent.

Jacksonville is no longer one of the least affected cities in the nation for the pandemic, it's now in the danger zone.

Years from now, it won't take 20/20 hindsight to see how foolish this was.

It is sad that a lawsuit was even necessary.

The Florida Times-Union