The move represents a remarkable reversal for the president, who throughout the pandemic had stubbornly insisted on hosting a large in-person event to land his party’s nomination for re-election, despite warnings that the rally could be a big source of new Covid-19 infections.
“We won’t be doing a big, crowded convention per se, now is just not the right time for it,” Trump said at a press conference Thursday night. “I just thought it was wrong to get people to go to what turned out to be a hotspot.”
The president had previously been forced to move most of the convention’s events to Jacksonville from his home location in Charlotte, North Carolina, after a backlash from local officials worried about the potential for the coronavirus to spread.
Mr Trump said a small portion of the convention will take place in Charlotte, but the rest will be via “tele-rallies and online.” At the onset of the pandemic, Democrats scrapped plans for a grand Wisconsin nominating convention for Joe Biden, the former vice president challenging Mr. Trump.
Florida has become one of the main centers of the new wave of coronavirus cases in the solar belt – and opinion polls have shown the president losing ground to Mr Biden in the presidential race as the There was growing disapproval of his handling of the pandemic.
A Quinnipiac University poll on Thursday found Mr Biden leading Mr Trump in Florida from 51% to 38%. Mr. Trump carried the state in 2016 and this is seen as crucial to his prospects for re-election.
According to the survey, 62% of voters in the Swing State believed holding the convention in Jacksonville would have been “dangerous” – 70% of Floridians feeling the coronavirus was “out of control.”
Mr Biden again criticized Mr Trump’s handling of the crisis on Thursday in a tweet: “COVID-19 infections are on the rise. The death toll is increasing. This morning it was announced that, once again, the number of unemployment claims was increasing. Donald Trump is pushing us back. The American people are paying the price. ”
Mr. Trump resumed regular press briefings this week, as he did at the start of the Covid-19 crisis, in an effort to bolster his political support. At the premiere on Tuesday, he admitted that the pandemic “will get worse before it gets better.”
In addition to dropping his convention plan, he pushed his plans to force schools to reopen and hailed the delayed start of the baseball season on Thursday. Former New York Yankees pitcher Mariano Rivera joined him in the White House press room.
“I think Major League Baseball is setting an example by playing, you know, in empty stadiums just like other sports, you see that,” Mr. Trump said. “It’s a psychologically great thing for our country.”
The president said he was asked to throw the ceremonial first pitch at Yankee Stadium in New York City on August 15. Anthony Fauci, a prominent member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force who increasingly disagreed with the president, gave the first speech. for the Washington Nationals baseball team on Thursday.
The number of coronavirus cases in the United States topped 4 million on Thursday after more than 70,000 new infections were recorded for the second day in a row. It was also the third day in a row that deaths exceeded 1,000.
The milestone came just two weeks after the number of Covid-19 cases in the United States surpassed 3 million, underscoring the speed at which the disease is spreading in the United States, which has by far the largest number infections in the world.
The rapid escalation was in part due to an increase in cases in some of the most populous US states. California, which surpassed New York as the US state with the most cases on Wednesday, reported a second consecutive day of more than 12,000 infections. Deaths in the state rose from a record 157, pushing the total number of deaths to more than 8,000.
Florida revealed a record 173 deaths and more than 10,200 cases, while Texas reported 173 deaths, down from Wednesday’s record 197 deaths.
The three solar belt states were part of a new wave of infections that dampened hopes of a quick reopening of lockdowns imposed as the disease began to spread in the United States earlier this year.
The United States may soon take another troubling milestone as the number of people hospitalized nears the record high in April, when hospitalizations were concentrated in the northeastern states.
The current number of hospitalizations stood at 59,363 on Thursday, according to data from the Covid Tracking Project, 577 below the peak on April 15.
About 60% of current hospitalizations currently occur in the southern states and almost a quarter in the west, while only 5% in the northeast, according to the Financial Times analysis of data from the Covid Tracking Project.
In April, nearly 60% of cases were in the northeast, compared to about 12% in the south and 13% in the west.