Approximately 14 people potentially exposed after two RNC Charlotte attendees tested positive for COVID-19

Approximately 14 people potentially exposed after two RNC Charlotte attendees tested positive for COVID-19
Delegates of the Republican National Convention share their thoughts on the health measures put in place to lower the risk of spreading COVID-19 at the convention in Charlotte. (Source: wbtv)

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Two attendees tested positive for COVID-19 and were potentially exposed to approximately 14 people at the Republican National Convention in Charlotte last weekend, according to Mecklenburg County officials.

Mecklenburg County health officials confirmed to WBTV that the two RNC attendees drove to Charlotte, and were less than a day’s drive from the convention.

“They were given specific instructions about isolating for the drive and allowed to drive home,” a county spokesperson said.

Mecklenburg County officials said the county health departments where those attendees live were notified of the positive results.

The approximately 14 people who were potentially exposed were recommended to quarantine until the results come back.

On Friday, county officials confirmed that two attendees and two support people tested positive for COVID-19 at the RNC in Charlotte.

Day one of the convention kicked off Monday in Charlotte, where hundreds of delegates ventured and both President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence made surprise speeches.

Mecklenburg County leaders say those who tested positive at the event were immediately isolated.

Around 792 COVID-19 tests were conducted among individuals attending or providing support to the RNC in Charlotte. “Of these, 2 attendees and 2 individuals supporting the event tested positive for COVID-19. These individuals were immediately issued isolation instructions and any known close contacts were notified and issued quarantine instructions by Mecklenburg County Public Health (MCPH),” County leaders said.

As of Thursday evening, 24,952 cases of novel coronavirus and 290 virus-related deaths have been reported among Mecklenburg County residents.

County leaders also say at least 62 of the residents who tested positive for COVD-19 were connected to higher educational institutions outside of the county.

One day after the Republican National Convention was held in Charlotte, we learned health safeguards that were put in place may have stopped some delegates who had the coronavirus from attending the convention.

Delegates were required to pass an at-home COVID-19 test prior to traveling to Charlotte. Upon their arrival at the Westin Hotel, where delegates stayed, Novant Health administered a second COVID-19 test.

Mecklenburg County Public Health Director Gibbie Harris issued a statement regarding RNC COVID-19 test results Tuesday evening.

“There were a few that came in that tested I think positive, that left happily. But other than that, I think it was safe, I felt really, felt that we were somewhat in a bubble like the NBA and the Carolina Panthers,” South Carolina Republican delegate Glenn McCall said. “We felt safe. We had all been tested multiple times. And there were a number of people who wanted to be tested. I think Novant maybe tested a couple of times. And that was offered. If you felt you wanted a second test, you could.”

WBTV previously asked the Republican National Committee if they would confirm any positive cases found in delegates. A spokesperson responded with the following statement:

"The RNC established several layers of health safeguards to protect attendees and the community at large, including requiring attendees to take a COVID test before departure and a test again upon arrival. As you know, medical information is private under HIPAA, and we continue to be in communication with local and state health officials as required by law."

After this story was published, a spokesperson for the GOP Convention sent the following statement from the RNC Communications Director:

“The RNC had diligent safety protocols in place, including testing all attendees before arriving in Charlotte, and again upon arrival. Out of roughly 1,000 tests administered, two RNC attendees, despite having negative tests prior to travel, and two Charlotte locals who planned to serve as event support staff tested positive upon arrival. All were sent home.” – RNC Communications Director Michael Ahrens

In addition to the two COVID-19 tests, delegates attending the RNC in person had to pass several health screenings and questionnaires ahead of the convention. Delegates were required to report any symptoms they experienced daily in an app, they received temperature checks at the Westin Hotel, and wore technology that tracked their movements to make contact tracing easier on health officials in case anyone started showing symptoms.

“We also had a tracker on our lanyards that we wore with our badges, identification, that would track our, I guess, the groups that we were in. And if anyone tested positive or had symptoms, they would notify us. It never happened to me anyway,” McCall said.

Mecklenburg County Public Health Director Gibbie Harris released a statement Monday, expressing concern over some delegates not wearing masks or adhering to social distancing guidelines. Delegates were required to follow the North Carolina mask mandate and social distancing guidelines, according to the health protocols approved by the county and state government.

“I have just shared concern about the lack of mask wearing and social distancing in the room at the RNC Roll Call Meeting with the RNC Convention staff. I have been assured that they are working hard to address these issues. All attendees agreed to comply with the requirements prior to attending and were informed that these requirements would be enforced,” Harris said in a statement.

The Republican National Committee on Arrangements and a private security company contracted by the RNC were supposed to enforce the mask mandate and social distancing at the convention.

Atrium Health was on site at the Convention Center Monday. WBTV asked Atrium Health’s Dr. David Callaway if he was concerned by some of the delegates not complying with the mask mandate.

“I think there’s always a concern when people don’t adhere to common sense public-health recommendations. I do think that we also expected that there would be some degree of this, so the fact that we were so aggressive up front about making sure that anybody that was in the building had had functionally two tests showing that they were negative, decreased that risk,” Dr. Callaway said. “I don’t think anybody thought that we would be able to get 100% mask compliance especially when the president showed up and wanted to get a picture with him. It’s understandable, it’s human nature. So, we did whatever we could to make sure that we were able to take care of that small percentage of people who didn’t want to follow the rules.”

McCall feels the safety precautions the Republican National Committee took to host the convention in person worked and could be emulated for other large gatherings.

“I definitely think that some of the protocols could be used to open up the Convention Center and open up Charlotte. To get larger groups than 10 together,” McCall said.

Steward also said he thinks the protocols were successful. But noted that other large group gatherings without such strict rules have also been successful.

“This was one of the first big events but if you look at it, a lot of the churches that have been meeting, they’ve had much larger crowds at the big churches. There are several that have 4, 5, 600 people there,” Steward said. “And it’s pretty much the same atmosphere and all those people did not go through the protocol. And we aren’t seeing a big increase. Churches in North Carolina have been meeting for about a month now, and we aren’t seeing a big spike from that.”

Additional details about the RNC Meeting will be included in the official After Action Report, unless there is a recognized threat to the public’s health, Mecklenburg County leaders say.

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