The oldest Republican senator has said he won’t attend the Republican National Convention because of concerns about the Coronavirus. He becomes the first major figure to say so.
Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa is 86-years-old. According to The Des Moines Register, he will skip his party’s convention for the first time in his 40 years in the Senate.
“I’m not going to go. And I’m not going to go because of the virus situation,” Grassley said on Monday.
The RNC has already been moved once as a result of the pandemic. The GOP originally planned to hold the event in Charlotte, North Carolina but changed course when local officials said there would be restrictions.
The convention will instead be held in Jacksonville, Florida. Grassley seemed to accept the wisdom of the venue change.
“Going to a place where the governor feels that it’s safer is probably the right thing to do if you want to have a convention,” Grassley said.
“And I think we should have a convention, but I think you should do whatever you can to make it as safe as possible so that would mean with face masks and with social distancing.”
Florida has suffered a serious outbreak of the virus, which has now put the Republican convention in doubt. For his part, Grassley endorsed safety measures such as social distancing at his own events in Iowa.
“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,” he said.
Darragh Roche is a journalist covering U.S. politics and media