Trump campaign, RNC shifts to virtual events amid coronavirus pandemic

The move came late Thursday following the publication of an ABC News report.

March 12, 2020, 6:20 PM

President Donald Trump has canceled campaign events temporarily amid the novel coronavirus pandemic and now his campaign and the Republican National Committee are shifting all current events on the schedule online, RNC officials tell ABC News.

The move came late Thursday following the publication of an ABC News report detailing hundreds of events that were slated to take place starting on Friday. Trump's behemoth ground operation, a joint effort between the RNC and the campaign named Trump Victory, had planned an in-person "national week of training," with events across the U.S., including in states that have declared a state of emergency -- such as Florida and Colorado.

President Donald Trump signs an emergency funding bill to combat COVID-19, coronavirus, as Health Secretary Alex Azar looks on in the Diplomatic Room of the White House in Washington, March 6, 2020.
AFP via Getty Images, FILE

Starting next week, the previously scheduled “national day of action” and “national week of training” events will all be “conducted in a virtual setting,” two senior RNC officials tell ABC News.

Other events that involved large gatherings originally planned for next week will be postponed, they said.

For the volunteer events, Trump Victory plans to hold trainings using the RNC’s “call from home applications,” sources said. The calls will be focused on rallying support in states voting next week on Tuesday – Arizona, Florida, Ohio, and Illinois – along with looking to recruit new volunteers and supporters nationwide.

Sources at the RNC said they plan to “continue to utilize online platforms to train thousands of members” of the party’s Trump Neighborhood Team, marking a shift away from the team’s massive on-the-ground in-person volunteer operation due to coronavirus concerns.

The official Trump campaign account had promoted the upcoming nationwide events on Twitter as recently as Wednesday.

Between March 13-19, Trump Victory had around 470 events stretched across dozens of states as the campaign turns toward the general election and ramps up its ground game effort.

The majority of the events were Trump Victory Leadership Trainings, which can usually feature between upwards of 100-200 people -- sometimes much larger -- and are volunteer training sessions specific to each state.

President Donald Trump speaks to supporters during a rally, March 2, 2020, in Charlotte, N.C.
Brian Blanco/Getty Images, FILE

However, the Trump campaign also had other in-person events scheduled including door-knockings, phone banking meetups and "[Make America Great Again] meetups," which are small gatherings of Trump supporters usually to watch a debate or event.

The president addressed the nation Wednesday night warning "older Americans should also avoid nonessential travel in crowded areas."

Members of the president's own coronavirus task force, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, have advised Americans to pause large gatherings.

"The bottom line: It is going to get worse," Fauci told lawmakers on Capitol Hill Wednesday. "We would recommend that there not be large crowds."

He added, "If that means not having any people in the audience where the NBA plays, so be it. But as a public health official, anything that has large crowds is something that would give a risk to spread."

Supporters of President Donald Trump attend a Trump rally on the eve before the South Carolina primary on Feb. 28, 2020 in North Charleston, S.C.
Spencer Platt/Getty Images, FILE

Meanwhile, Trump’s campaign staff were informed late Thursday night to work for home through this coming Monday amid coronavirus concerns, multiple sources with direct knowledge tell ABC News.

The campaign is planning to conduct a deep cleaning of its massive Washington D.C. area headquarters during that time.

Two senior level campaign sources tell ABC News the cleaning is precautionary due to the fact that many staffers had been in Florida while the president was raising millions during a marathon of campaign fundraisers last weekend, which included members of the Brazilian delegations, one of which tested positive for coronavirus upon his return to Brazil.

And amid the growing pandemic, the president made major changes to his travel schedule. He canceled plan tip out west including a fundraiser in Colorado with Sen. Corey Gardner.

Trump also postponed a recently announced "Catholics for Trump" kick off event he was set to attend next week in Milwaukee.

The president said on Thursday his next campaign rally in Tampa, Florida on March 29th may still be held, but added "we’ll probably not do it."