Jacksonville, Trump’s New RNC Site, Will Now Require Face Masks


“The event is still two months away, and we are planning to offer health precautions including but not limited to temperature checks, available P.P.E., aggressive sanitizing protocols, and available Covid-19 testing,” the statement said.

Mr. Trump did not immediately respond to the announcement. But as he has pushed states to reopen their economies, he has shown an ability to bend local regulations to his will. Officials in Tulsa, Okla., rescinded a curfew ahead of the president’s rally there earlier this month after Mr. Trump said on Twitter that he had discussed the curfew with the mayor, a Republican.

Democrats say Republicans want to use the convention to shore up votes in Northeast Florida.

“Jacksonville — Duval County — is a swing city in a swing state,” said State Senator Audrey Gibson, the Democratic majority leader, who represents the city. “Duval County went blue in the last election. So it’s pretty obvious what this is about.”

In 2016, Mr. Trump won Duval County by a mere 5,968 votes, though Hillary Clinton never campaigned there. In 2018, the county voted for Andrew Gillum, a Democrat, for governor, though its surrounding suburbs remained deeply red.

Jacksonville’s broad television market includes Republican suburbs like affluent St. Johns County, home to St. Augustine — the type of place where Democrats hope to win over enough white, college-educated women to remain competitive in November. Former President Barack Obama won Florida twice in part by keeping vote margins close in Duval County. (For the newcomers: It is pronounced “DOO-val.”)

In addition to dealing with virus this year, Jacksonville has also become a microcosm of how the nation has been forced to confront systemic racism in the wake of George Floyd’s killing. African-Americans make up nearly a third of Jacksonville’s population of 912,000 but have been historically excluded from power in local government.

That Jacksonville — a city perennially overshadowed by Miami, Orlando and Tampa that under normal circumstances might never have held a convention — gets its moment in the political spotlight while it grapples with the virus and the unfulfilled promises to its African-American residents has raised the stakes for local leaders. What amounts to a massive campaign rally for a divisive president may only lead to more contagion and unrest.



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