Dr. Cohen responds to RNC's proposed COVID-19 safety guidelines, asks for more information

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WTVD) -- North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy Cohen on Friday responded to the Republican National Committee's COVID-19 safety plan, saying the agency needs more information, including how many people will be in attendance.

"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," she wrote. "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."

Republican leaders, however, still maintain it's the State of North Carolina that needs to provide the specifics.

"Governors in other states have put forth concrete plans trying to lure us away," Rick Gorka, RNC2020 Special Advisor and Trump Victory Regional Communications Director, said. "When we contracted with the City of Charlotte, it was for a full convention. That's 19,000 people in the arena, full hotels and full bars and restaurants. If that's not the case, we need to know so we can make our plans accordingly."

RELATED: Gov. Roy Cooper on President Trump's threat to pull the RNC from North Carolina: The response to a pandemic can't be political

In a letter to the governor on Wednesday, the committee said that they "still do not have solid guidelines from the State and cannot in good faith, ask thousands of visitors to begin paying deposits and making travel plans without knowing the full commitment of the Governor, elected officials and other stakeholders in supporting the Convention."

The conference is scheduled to start on August 24 at the Spectrum Center in Charlotte.

"We put forth some ideas of what we're willing to do, and the Governor is the ultimate arbiter and will tell us what is required for a healthy and safe event," Gorka said. "If that means masks, then that's what it will be."

The RNC asked for approval of the following safety protocols by the governor:
  • 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


Despite the amount of safety measures put in place, the committee did not mention wearing safety masks or that attendees engage in social distancing.

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?

Cooper already faces pressure from President Trump after the president threatened to pull the convention out of North Carolina on Monday.

"North Carolina will continue working with the RNC to ensure the convention can be held safely," a governor's office spokesperson said in a statement on Friday.

"We are not going to sacrifice the health and safety of North Carolinians," Cooper said Tuesday during a news conference. "That's the bottom line."

RNC officials have long touted the convention's economic boon for Charlotte because it could bring in as many as 50,000 people.

The City of Charlotte was chosen to host the RNC Convention back in 2018; the dates for the convention were announced in March 2019.

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