US Democratic Convention moves to smaller venue, as delegates are urged to stay away

The Democratic convention will be "anchored" in Milwaukee, but "include both live broadcasts and curated content". PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (NYTIMES) - The Democratic National Convention will move out of Milwaukee's professional basketball arena and state delegations are being urged not to travel to the city because of concerns about the coronavirus pandemic, party officials said on Wednesday (June 24).

Former vice-president Joe Biden still intends to travel to Milwaukee to accept his party's presidential nomination, his campaign manager said, but neither his campaign nor the Democratic National Committee has made firm commitments that Biden will attend.

The Democratic convention will be "anchored" in Milwaukee, but the four-night mid-August event will "include both live broadcasts and curated content from Milwaukee and other satellite cities, locations and landmarks across the country", according to a news release.

The announcement that the convention will move five blocks from the 17,000-seat Fiserv Forum to the Wisconsin Center, Milwaukee's convention centre, stands in contrast to the plans being made by Republicans, who at the behest of President Donald Trump moved the venue for his nomination acceptance speech from Charlotte, North Carolina, to Jacksonville, Florida, where local officials have required fewer safety precautions, even as cases of the virus continue to surge in Florida.

The news came as the United States reported the highest single-day total of new coronavirus cases since late April.

It remains unclear how many delegates will converge on Milwaukee for the convention or even who will be allowed inside the convention hall. It is not yet decided what sort of access journalists will have to the proceedings.

Nor is it clear how much space convention planners will need for a production footprint or what social distancing requirements will be in place when the convention begins on Aug 17.

And while Biden's campaign insists he is planning to attend, they have yet to make a firm commitment.

"Vice-President Biden intends to proudly accept his party's nomination in Milwaukee," said Jen O'Malley Dillon, Biden's campaign manager. "The city of Milwaukee has been an incredible partner, and we are committed to highlighting Wisconsin as a key battleground state at our convention this August."

The coronavirus pandemic has forced Democrats to drastically roll back plans for what would have been an enormous celebration of Biden and the party's efforts to oust Trump. A survey of DNC members last month found the vast majority of them did not want to attend an in-person convention, citing health risks from the pandemic.

All of the convention's official business - setting its rules, adopting a platform and formally nominating Biden and his running mate - will be conducted remotely, party officials said.

Convention organisers have added two epidemiologists, W. Ian Lipkin of Columbia University and Larry Brilliant, who is known for his work in eradicating smallpox, to advise officials on public health precautions at the convention.

Organisers also announced they had cancelled all official parties and events that were to take place before and during the event in Milwaukee.

The number of new coronavirus cases in Wisconsin is down from a late-May peak, according to a New York Times database. Milwaukee County has the highest rate of positive cases in the state.

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