By Jarrett Renshaw
(Reuters) - Republicans will significantly limit the number of attendees at the party's August convention nominating President Donald Trump for a second White House term in Jacksonville, Florida, as coronavirus cases continue to spike sharply across the state.
The shift to a smaller gathering is the latest in a series of changes sought by organizers as they scramble to host a large-scale event next month amid the health crisis.
"We had hoped to be able to plan a traditional convention celebration to which we are all accustomed. However, adjustments must be made to comply with state and local health guidelines," Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said in a letter delivered on Thursday to delegates.
Only the approximately 2,500 regular delegates will be permitted to attend the first three nights of the four-night event, according to a Republican source with knowledge of the plans.
On the final evening, when Trump is scheduled to formally accept the Republican presidential nomination and address the convention, delegates will be allowed to bring one guest, and alternate delegates will also be invited, bringing the crowd to around 6,000 to 7,000 people.
The event typically draws a far larger audience, as party officials fill arenas in a show of support for their standard-bearer. The bulk of the convention had already been moved from Charlotte, North Carolina, last month after the state's governor refused to permit a full-capacity crowd.
The party plans to utilize a number of indoor and outdoor venues, including the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena, TIAA Bank Field, Daily’s Place Amphitheater, 121 Financial Ballpark, and several others.
However, it is still undecided what venue will host the speeches.
Florida's virus count has soared since it was chosen to host the convention in June, recently passing 300,000 known cases.
The Democratic National Committee told delegates in a letter earlier this month that state delegations, including elected leaders, should not plan to travel to Milwaukee for the party's convention, and that its official business "will be conducted remotely".
(Reporting by Jarrett Renshaw; Additional reporting by Michael Martina; Writing by Joseph Ax; editing by Jonathan Oatis and Miochael Perry)