Coronavirus Question: Should Milwaukee, Democrats Cancel Convention?

M.D. Kittle,

The novel coronavirus is serious stuff. Just ask the Democratic candidates for president.

Former Vice President Joe Biden and U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and their friends in Democratic Party leadership have relentlessly criticized President Trump and his administration for not doing enough in the face of a global outbreak. So have Wisconsin Democrats such as Sen. Tammy Baldwin, who has insisted the coronavirus is so serious that the Trump administration must “stop undermining the Affordable Care Act.”

Surely, there’s nothing political in these liberal politicians’ motives.

But if the Democrats are truly concerned about the spread of the coronavirus, shouldn’t they and their hosts cancel the Party’s biggest party — the Democratic National Convention, to be held July 13-16 in Milwaukee?

City officials aren’t ready to go there.

Milwaukee Health Commissioner Jeanette Kowalik on Sunday said her agency didn’t have plans to order limits on public gatherings or meetings. Mayor Tom Barrett said it’s too early to worry about whether the DNC might be affected, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. 

The Democrat urged calm, even as at least 11 known cases of the coronavirus have been confirmed in Illinois. On Monday, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker issued a disaster declaration with the confirmation of an additional four coronavirus cases in Chicago. As of Monday, there were no confirmed cases in Milwaukee, but with so much movement between Chicago and Wisconsin’s largest city, concerns are rising that the severe respiratory disease will land in the Brew City.

Wisconsin health officials on Monday afternoon did confirm a second case of the disease.

By the time July rolls around, the nation could be crawling with COVID-19 — at least that’s the bleak prediction from a lot of Dems beating the panic drum in what they hope will prove to be Trump’s political silver bullet.

Fear of coronavirus spread has prompted the cancelation of the South by Southwest music and film festival, the 10-day liberal bender that pumps an estimated $350 million into the economy of Austin, Texas. City and county officials issued a “local disaster” declaration.

“Austin Public health officials stated that ’there’s no evidence that closing SXSW or any other gatherings will make the community safer.’ However, this situation evolved rapidly, and we honor and respect the city of Austin’s decision,” the festival’s organizers said in a statement.

Ultra Miami, another big music festival slated for later this month, was canceled after Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis declared a public health emergency. Over the weekend, the Florida Department of Health said two people had died of complications from the coronavirus. They were in their 70s and had traveled overseas.

“Due to the Florida Governor’s declaration of a public health emergency and Centers of Disease Control and Prevention’s Interim Guidance for COVID-19, it is impossible for the City to provide access to Bayfront Park at this time,” organizers said in a statement.

Democrats in Washington state, hit earliest and hardest by the virus, canceled a fundraiser, just days before today’s sort-of-Super Tuesday primary there.

The list of cancelations and closures continues to climb, including the shutdown of college campuses in several states.

Health officials have said delaying a decision to postpone or cancel an event could prove costly. A 2007 study on the 1918 global “Spanish flu” pandemic, which struck nearly a quarter of the world’s population and killed tens of millions, found effective quarantines and shutting down key public venues and events helped slow and stop the spread of the disease.

“These findings contrast with the conventional wisdom that the 1918 pandemic rapidly spread through each community killing everyone in its path. Although these urban communities had neither effective vaccines nor antivirals, cities that were able to organize and execute a suite of classic public health interventions before the pandemic swept fully through the city appeared to have an associated mitigated epidemic experience,” the study’s abstract notes.

Both parties are growing increasingly concerned about the coronavirus’s potential impact on their national conventions, particularly after an attendee at last month’s Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) tested positive for the disease.

Democrats are in a bigger bind; they still need to nominate a presidential candidate.

“It is serious. The question for state chairs is, look, we all have to put on conventions coming up. Most of the delegates to the national convention are elected at [state] conventions. What happens if state parties have to cancel these events where delegates are elected?” Ken Martin, chairman of the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party and a Vice Chair of the Democratic National Committee told the Daily Beast. “If things continue to evolve, It could dramatically alter the contest and severely hamper Democrats as we try to unify our party.”

Will they be able to “unify” in Milwaukee?