Updated April 5 at 10 a.m. CT
The 2020 Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee is delayed until Aug. 17 in response to the coronavirus outbreak, the Democratic National Convention Committee (DNCC) announced Thursday. It was originally scheduled for July 13-16.
The convention planning team says it will use the coming weeks to further explore options so the convention takes place without unnecessary risk to public health. These options include adjusting the convention’s format, crowd size and schedule.
In an interview with ABC News on April 5, Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden says the convention may have to be done virtually.
"We may have to do a virtual convention. I think we should be thinking about that right now. The idea of holding the convention is going to be necessary. We may not be able to put 10, 20, 30,000 people in one place and that's very possible," Biden says.
Democrats say they recognize the important role Wisconsin plays in the presidential election as a key battleground state but that safety remains the top priority.
"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," says Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez.
Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, who helped spearhead the city's bid for the convention, calls the delay exciting.
"I consider this extremely good news. And I think it's a sign of how sensitive the Democratic National Committee is to the health needs not only of our residents but the health needs of people throughout this nation," he says.
As part of its contingency planning efforts, the DNCC says it confirmed that the Fiserv Forum, the Wisconsin Center District, and hotel accommodations in the surrounding area are available in August. The convention is expected to draw about 50,000 people to the Milwaukee area, including delegates, politicians and media.
Barrett believes the delay shows a firm commitment to host the convention in Milwaukee.
“It was always clear to me that they are committed to nominating the next Democratic presidential nominees here in the city of Milwaukee, and I think that this announcement today underscores their commitment to doing that,” he says.
And Barrett's optimistic that the delay gives hope to businesses and restaurants that are suffering losses because of the coronavirus.
“Hopefully, and I say this with a great deal of hope, that by mid-August this will serve as a very, very important shot in the arm for our local businesses so that they can expect to have visitors here," he says.
As the convention’s plans are further finalized, the DNCC says more details will be made publicly available.
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