Democrats shelve national convention until mid-August over coronavirus concerns

The move comes amid the coronavirus crisis.

April 2, 2020, 7:05 PM

The Democratic National Committee postponed the party's national convention to the week of August 17 over the coronavirus crisis, as the pandemic wreaks havoc on the 2020 election.

The organizers behind the convention pushed back the quadrennial event, which was originally slated for mid-July, to provide "convention planners more time to determine the most appropriate structure for this historic event," according to a release from the committee.

The announcement comes less than 24 hours after former Vice President Joe Biden, the current delegate leader in the Democratic primary, told Jimmy Fallon on his late night show Wednesday, "I doubt whether the Democratic Convention is going to be able to be held in mid-July, early July. I think it's going to have to move into August. And then, even then, the Republican and Democratic Convention, we're going to have to -- we just have to be prepared for the alternative, and the alternative we don't know when it's going to be, unless we have a better sense of whether this curve is kind of move down or up."

The convention is still set to take place in Milwaukee, but is now planned for one week before the Republican National Convention in Charlotte, where President Trump is expected to be re-nominated.

The move represents another toll of the outbreak, which has shuttered most major events, entire sporting seasons, and upended nearly ever facet of American society.

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"In our current climate of uncertainty, we believe the smartest approach is to take additional time to monitor how this situation unfolds so we can best position our party for a safe and successful convention," said Joe Solmonese, CEO of the Democratic National Convention Committee. "During this critical time, when the scope and scale of the pandemic and its impact remain unknown, we will continue to monitor the situation and follow the advice of health care professionals and emergency responders."

"I’m confident our convention planning team and our partners will find a way to deliver a convention in Milwaukee this summer that places our Democratic nominee on the path to victory in November," he added.

The convention is the culminating event of the primary season - when Democrats are expected to formally nominate their next party leader but since the onset of the crisis, questions emerged about whether the convention could move forward as planned, since it historically draws tens of thousands of party leaders and loyalists.

PHOTO: The stage at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, July 28, 2016.
The stage at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, July 28, 2016.
The New York Times via Redux, FILE

But the decision to move the convention marks a significant indication of just how severe the crisis is and how acutely it's disrupted the nation's electoral process. Coronavirus has even shuffled the presidential primary calendar, with 15 states and one territory choosing to push back their nominating contests amid the unprecedented public health scare.

"Leadership means being able to adapt, and that's exactly what our party is doing. The city of Milwaukee has been an incredible partner, especially over the past few weeks as we've confronted this global crisis, and we couldn't be more committed to highlighting Wisconsin as a key battleground state, as it is at the center of so many of Trump's broken promises," said Tom Perez, the chair of the Democratic National Committee. "Ultimately, the health and safety of our convention attendees and the people of Milwaukee is our top priority. And we will continue to be in contact with local, state, and federal health officials as we monitor this fluid situation."

A campaign spokesperson for former Vice President Joe Biden applauded the DNC's decision, saying the campaign will "continue to work closely with State Parties and the DNC," on any changes to the delegate process and convention format as the party continues to grapple with the COVID-19 crisis.

"We welcome the DNC's decision today to prioritize the health and safety of delegates and the greater Milwaukee community by postponing the Democratic National Convention until August. Our campaign will continue to work closely with State Parties and the DNC on any changes to the delegate selection process and the format of the convention to ensure that health and safety remain the top priority as we confront this COVID-19 crisis as a nation," said Bill Russo, a Biden campaign spokesperson.

But now a tough road lies ahead for the organizers, who will up against a number of logistical hurdles to keep the event on track.

A release from the committee notes that as part of their contingency planning efforts, officials confirmed that the arena, Milwaukee's Fiserv Forum, as well as hotel accommodations in the surrounding area, are available for the new dates.

"The convention planning team will now use the coming weeks to further explore all options to ensure nominating the next president of the United States is done without unnecessary risk to public health," the release said. "These options include everything from adjusting the convention’s format to crowd size and schedule."

ABC News' Johnny Verhovek contributed to this report.

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