Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said Monday he will not attend the Republican National Convention next month in Florida due to coronavirus concerns.
“I’m not going to go. And I’m not going to go because of the virus situation,” Grassley, 86, said on a conference call with Iowa reporters Monday morning, according to The Des Moines Register.
The senator’s office confirmed his comments to NBC News.
This would mark the first time in 40 years that Grassley, the second-highest-ranking official in the Senate, has skipped a Republican convention. It also signals the concerns top GOP officials have about the virus as the president moves to the sidelines of the pandemic response and hands the reins over to public health officials in his administration.
U.S. health officials continue to raise alarms about the recent spike in coronavirus cases in the United States, with hospitals overwhelmed and some states pausing their reopening plans. As of July 6, more than 2.8 million cases have been confirmed in the U.S., based on NBC News reporting. There have been more than 130,000 deaths.
Grassley in a radio interview on Monday pushed for the need to wear masks, which the president has largely resisted despite increasing encouragement from Senate Republicans and even Vice President Mike Pence.
“I have a responsibility as a citizen not to infect somebody else, so if wearing a face mask might not protect me, but it’s going to protect somebody else, I ought to be doing it,” he told Radio Iowa.
The Republican National Committee announced last month that it picked Jacksonville, Florida, as the site where President Donald Trump will accept the party’s nomination after bailing on Charlotte, North Carolina, over coronavirus restrictions. Florida is one of the states that has seen a recent coronavirus spike with over 200,000 confirmed new cases as of July 6.
The move to Florida, a crucial battleground state, comes after the committee was at loggerheads with North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, who was reluctant to ease COVID-19 restrictions. The convention is scheduled for the week of Aug. 24; Trump plans to accept the Republican presidential nomination at VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena. The committee said it would have safety precautions in place, such as temperature checks, social distancing, and sanitizing stations.
Former Vice President Joe Biden will accept the Democratic presidential nomination at a nearly all-virtual convention in Milwaukee in August, the Democratic National Committee said late last month. Delegates were told to stay home because of health concerns.