Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) on Monday said that he has decided against attending this year’s Republican National Convention for the first time in 40 years because of “the virus situation.”
Grassley, who has attended every RNC since taking office in 1980, told reporters during a conference call on Monday morning that “I’m not going to go” to the convention in light of surging cases of the coronavirus across the country, according to the Des Moines Register.
This year’s RNC is set to be held in Jacksonville, Florida in late August after being moved from Charlotte, North Carolina. The Republican National Committee announced the move after both Gov. Roy Cooper (D) and Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles expressed concerns over holding the convention amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Last week, Jacksonville mandated that face masks be worn in public and indoor locations in an effort to reduce the spread of COVID-19 as Florida continues experiencing a record surge in cases.
On Monday, Grassley told reporters that moving the convention to Jacksonville is “probably the right thing to do” since it makes sense to hold the convention in a place “where the governor feels that it’s safer,” according to the Des Moines Register.
Grassley reportedly added that he thinks Republicans should have a convention but that it should be made “as safe as possible” with face masks and social distancing.
Grassley told reporters that he will wear masks at events across the state over the next two weeks, according to the Des Moines Register, but the paper reported that he doesn’t believe people can be forced to wear masks.
Grassley said he will encourage attendees of his county visits to wear masks and social distance.
“There’s generally a rule that if you’re six feet apart you don’t have to wear a mask, but I think doing both makes common sense and I’m going to encourage people to do both,” Grassley said, according to the Des Moines Register.
Grassley’s office did not immediately respond to TPM’s request for comment.