WASHINGTON – Former Vice President Joe Biden on Tuesday cast doubt on whether the Democratic National Convention will take place in July as the country continues to grapple with the coronavirus pandemic.
"It's hard to envision that,” Biden told MSNBC’s Brian Williams when asked whether he believes the convention will still go on as scheduled. “Again, we should listen to the scientists.”
Biden's comments are the latest to raise questions about whether the Democratic National Committee, as well as the Republican National Convention, should move forward with their respective conventions amid the coronavirus crisis.
The United States has the most confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus. Many states are also under stay-at-home orders, including Wisconsin, where the DNC’s convention is set to take place. The travel and hotel industry is also suffering under the current pandemic, with many airlines and hotels furloughing or letting their employees go due to the virus.
The Democrats' convention is scheduled for mid-July, and is still on as planned, but officials are preparing contingency plans if the coronavirus crisis is still underway.
"These challenging times require us to be deeply thoughtful about the important and unprecedented moment in which we’re living," Democratic National Convention Committee CEO Joe Solmonese said in a statement Wednesday. "As we continue to put plans in place for a successful Democratic National Convention this summer, we will balance protecting the health and well-being of convention attendees and our host city with our responsibility to deliver this historic and critical occasion.”
Katie Peters, communications director for the Democratic National Convention Committee, last week said in a statement that the situation surrounding coronavirus is “very fluid” and noted that the convention is still more than three months away. The convention is set for July 13-16 in Milwaukee.
“As we navigate the unprecedented challenge of responding to the coronavirus, we're exploring a range of contingency options to ensure we can deliver a successful convention without unnecessary risk to public health,” she said in the statement.
Approximately 50,000 people are expected to attend the DNC convention, including many prominent Democrats. Democratic delegates who are expected to attend the convention have raised doubts about whether it will continue as planned, according to a report from Politico.
It's unclear what contingency plans the DNC is considering, but several Democrats and news organizations have speculated about a virtual convention.
However, Maryland Democratic Party chairwoman Yvette Lewis told told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Wednesday that "nobody knows" what shape the convention will take in July.
“Everybody wants to move forward. Everybody wants things to be as planned," she said. "We’re excited about Milwaukee and excited about the nomination. But right now nobody knows. Public health and safety — that’s what most important."
Alex Lasry, who chaired the Milwaukee Democratic National Convention bid committee, also told the Journal Sentinel "I don't see (the convention) being canceled.
"Will there be 50,000 people there? I don't know,” he said.
Lasry, who served as finance chair for the Host Committee, mirrored sentiments from the national committee, calling the coronavirus crisis “fluid” and noted that no one knows for sure where things will be in the next month.
"We will be having a convention," he said. "We will be nominating our nominee. But the next two to five weeks will determine what will happen (with the convention)."
Officials for the RNC are also still preparing to hold their in-person convention, but are also monitoring the virus. It is scheduled for Aug. 24-27 in Charlotte, North Carolina.
But officials have noted that they are "monitoring and coordinating with key stakeholders across the administration" as well as with the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“We prioritize the health and safety of attendees and have the utmost confidence in the administration’s work and preparations," convention spokeswoman Tatum Gibson said in a statement, according to the Charlotte Observer.
The RNC has altered several of its early plans due to the pandemic, including a media walk-through of the convention arena set for April. Republicans will instead host a tele-town hall in lieu of the walk-through.
Biden is not the first Democratic official to raise doubts that the Democratic convention will go on as originally planned.
Texas Democratic Committee chairman Gilberto Hinojosa told the Journal Sentinel previously that he would not be surprised if the convention does not go on as planned “unless this massive effort at social isolation works between now and then.”
The Texas Democratic Convention, which is the biggest Democratic convention behind the national convention, is now going to host a virtual gathering in early June, Hinojosa said.
Even if a traditional in-person convention does not happen in Milwaukee in July, Hinojosa said: "We will have a way to get our message out, to pump up our base, to get our nominee ready for the big fight in November.”
Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, an ally of Biden, told Fox News that he's "not sure we're going to have a convention.”
“I think both parties are very likely, I hope, to agree on postponing the convention or doing something that won’t bring thousands of people together to kill each other ultimately with COVID-19," he said.
Contributing: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Coronavirus: Political conventions still planned, but questions loom