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Biden will not travel to Milwaukee for the Democratic National Convention amid coronavirus pandemic

Vice President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the third day of the Democratic National Convention at the Wells Fargo Center, July 27, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

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WASHINGTON — Vice President Joe Biden and the rest of the speakers scheduled to take the stage at the Democratic National Convention later this month will not travel to Milwaukee in person for their speeches, convention organizers announced Wednesday. 

Citing the coronavirus pandemic, organizers said the speakers will avoid Milwaukee “in order to prevent risking the health of our host community as well as the convention’s production teams, security officials, community partners, media and others.”

The announcement came as both Democratic and Republican convention committees scramble this week to make final arrangements for conventions that have been upended by the pandemic, which has surged in the past month.

Democratic speakers are expected to include former President Barack Obama, presumptive nominee Joe Biden and his yet-to-be-announced vice presidential running mate. 

“From the very beginning of this pandemic, we put the health and safety of the American people first. We followed the science, listened to doctors and public health experts, and we continued making adjustments to our plans in order to protect lives,” said DNC Chair Tom Perez in a statement accompanying the announcement. 

Instead of traveling to Milwaukee, Biden will deliver his program-topping acceptance speech from his home state of Delaware on Thursday, August 20, organizers said. The Democratic National Convention will air on television and online for two hours each night, 9:00-11:00 p.m. EST, from August 17-20.

Biden is not the only major candidate this year whose convention plans are up in the air. Incumbent President Donald Trump also has yet to announce where he plans to deliver his acceptance speech, which slated to take place a week after Biden’s speech. 

One idea that’s reportedly being considered is for Trump to deliver his acceptance speech from the South Lawn of the White House. Such a move, however, would likely draw scrutiny from government ethics experts. While the president is exempted from the Hatch Act, it is still frowned upon to commandeer federal property maintained by taxpayers in order to hold purely political events. 

As word spread through Washington on Wednesday that Trump’s acceptance speech might be held on White House grounds, at least one Senate Republican was already skeptical of the idea.

“Is that even legal?” said South Dakota Sen. John Thune, when NBC asked him about a possible convention speech at the White House. “Anything on federal property would seem to me to be problematic,” added Thune, who is the second highest-ranking Republican in the Senate.

The Republican National Convention was originally scheduled to take place in Charlotte, but Trump abruptly yanked the convention speeches from the host city in early June, after the state’s governor refused to guarantee that the attendees would be allowed to ignore face mask and social distancing requirements.

Republican convention speeches were then moved to Jacksonville, Florida, after the Trump-allied GOP governor there, Ron DeSantis, assured the president that the event could have a pre-coronavirus look and feel. 

But within days of Trump’s announcement that Jacksonville would be the site of a GOP convention “celebration,” coronavirus cases in Florida began to soar. By the last week of July, it became clear that Jacksonville could no longer be the site of a major gathering either.

“The timing for this event is not right. It’s just not right with what’s been happening,” Trump said on July 23, announcing the cancelation of the Florida arm of the convention. “We’ll have a very nice something,” he added. 

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