2020 Election
Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, puts on a face mask during a Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington on June 11, 2020.
Carolyn Kaster—AP
July 7, 2020 12:20 PM EDT

Sen. Chuck Grassley will not attend the Republican National Convention for the first time in his 40-year Senate career due to concerns about the coronavirus.

“I’m not going to go, and I’m not going to go because of the virus situation,” the Iowa senator said on a conference call Monday with Iowa reporters.

He said moving the convention was probably the right thing to do since North Carolina officials didn’t feel it was safe to have a large gathering.

“If you want to have a convention, and I think we should have a convention, I think you should do whatever you can to make it as safe as possible, so that would be with face masks and social distancing,” Grassley said.

The convention is now scheduled to begin Aug. 24 in Jacksonville, Florida, where officials began requiring face masks in public a week ago. Florida has seen its positive test rate lately reach more than 18%. The state has been hit especially hard, along with other Sunbelt states such as Arizona, California and Texas.

Grassley, 86, said he plans to continue his tour of all of Iowa’s counties, visiting 29 counties during the current two-week break. He and his staff will wear masks but he doesn’t plan on requiring it for Iowans who come to see him.

“There’s no way a United States senator can force anybody in Iowa to wear a mask,” he said. “It’s going to be up to the individuals and I would say that there’s generally a rule that if you’re 6 feet apart, you don’t have to wear a mask but I think doing both makes common sense and I’m going to encourage people to do both.”

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