“In our current climate of uncertainty, we believe the smartest approach is to take additional time to monitor how this situation unfolds so we can best position our party for a safe and successful convention"

By Sean Neumann
April 02, 2020 03:00 PM
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The Democratic National Convention, which had been scheduled for July in Milwaukee, has been postponed until Aug. 17.

The Democratic National Committee announced the move on Thursday morning, saying the move was a reflection of the new coronavirus pandemic that has upended much of society as millions of people have been staying indoors as much as possible to slow the virus’ spread.

The delay will give convention planners “more time to determine the most appropriate structure for this historic event,” according to a statement from the DNC.

“In our current climate of uncertainty, we believe the smartest approach is to take additional time to monitor how this situation unfolds so we can best position our party for a safe and successful convention,” Joe Solmonese, CEO of the Democratic National Convention Committee, said in a statement Thursday. “During this critical time, when the scope and scale of the pandemic and its impact remain unknown, we will continue to monitor the situation and follow the advice of health care professionals and emergency responders.”

The coronavirus pandemic, which emerged late last year, led officials around the country to restrict public gatherings and urge people to remain at home as much as possible.

These social distancing guidelines — or in some states, legally enforceable orders — essentially paused the 2020 Democratic primary race, as the contest between the front-runner, former Vice President Joe Biden, and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders was put on the back-burner as the nation’s attention turned to the virus.

Former Vice President Joe Biden (left podium) and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders (right podium) in a March Democratic debate with CNN, without an audience.

Biden, 77, has a significant lead over Sanders, 78, in the race to become the Democratic Party’s presidential nominee and run against President Donald Trump in November.

A candidate needs at least 1,991 delegates to become the party’s nominee come August. Biden is ahead of Sanders 1,215-909, while many of the remaining states have delayed their primary votes until June and beyond.

According to the New York Times, 15 states have postponed their primary votes because of the coronavirus outbreak.

The DNC chair, Tom Perez, encouraged states who have yet to hold their votes to look into vote-by-mail and curbside ballot pickups as potential ways to still safely hold their contests.

Perez said in a statement Thursday that the DNC will continue to be in contact with health officials and local authorities to monitor the “fluid situation.”

“The Democratic Party is ready to defeat Donald Trump, the American people are ready to elect a Democratic president, and I have absolute confidence that our team is ready to deliver a successful convention for our nominee,” Perez said.

Federal health officials joined many states and local communities in mid March in asking Americans to avoid gathering in groups of more than 10. Biden, Sanders, and Trump had to reshuffle their campaign tactics and cancel rallies scheduled for the coming months.

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Biden and Sanders, who are both in their late 70s and therefore more at risk if they contract the coronavirus, participated in an unusual debate without a live audience in mid-March. They have since largely communicated with voters via video messages from their homes.

President Trump likewise told reporters this week he will largely remain at the White House rather than travel.

Sanders told The View co-host Whoopi Goldberg on Wednesday that he planned to stay in the primary race, despite the deficit he faces in the delegate count, adding that he was “assessing” his campaign and how to move forward after Biden became the clear front-runner in early March.

As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from CDC, WHO, and local public health departments. To help provide doctors and nurses on the front lines with life-saving medical resources, donate to Direct Relief here.