Norovirus Strikes the Republican National Convention

CLEVELAND (The Washington Post) —

The highly contagious norovirus appears to have hit the Republican National Convention.

A dozen California Republican Party staff members, who arrived last week in Ohio ahead of the state’s delegates, have fallen ill with the virus, said Jim Brulte, chairman of the state GOP.

So far, none of the state’s 550 delegates appear to have caught the virus.

“Our best guess is that this came from California,” Brulte said. The first staffer to fall ill infected her spouse.

The delegates from California are staying at the Kalahari Resort in Sandusky, nearly 60 miles away from the Cleveland arena where the convention is being staged.

State party officials have suggested that delegates frequently wash their hands, avoid shaking hands and sharing food and stay off delegation buses to the convention arena if they exhibit any symptoms of norovirus.

“You’ll know if you have it,” Cynthia Bryant, executive director of the state GOP, said, according to an email cited by the Sacramento Bee. “We will work out other means of transportation.”

The virus can be caught through contact from infected people or surfaces, or through consuming contaminated food or water. And it spreads quickly in closed places, such as cruise ships, schools and nursing homes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Norovirus inflames the stomach, the intestines — or both. Symptoms include stomach pain, nausea, diarrhea and vomiting. Such symptoms can be especially dangerous for young children and older adults.

Every year, about 19 to 21 million people become sick with norovirus; about 570 to 800 people die annually from it, according to the CDC.

The infected individuals first began showing symptoms on Thursday, and Erie County health officials have taken samples for analysis, The Plain Dealer reported.

“It looks like the norovirus, but we’re not going to say that’s definitively what it is,” Erie County Health Commissioner Pete Schade told the newspaper.

In Ohio, hand sanitizer dispensers were spotted Monday night at the resort where the California delegates are staying, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Brulte said that sanitizing stations have been added to the delegate areas.

The African-themed Kalahari Resort in Sandusky has 884 guest rooms, according to a company website. The property features indoor and outdoor water parks and an outdoor adventure park.

A spokesperson with the resort did not immediately return The Post’s inquiry.

“We’re in touch with the California delegation about this,” said Audrey Scagnelli, spokeswoman for the RNC. “They’re working with local health officials and are taking all the necessary precautions to contain the virus. We’ll continue to monitor the situation and ensure the delegation and staff have everything they need.”

News reports of the California delegation’s accommodations surfaced earlier this year, when state GOP leaders complained that they were being put up so far from the convention site.

“We’re pretty bitter about that,” California GOP vice chairwoman Harmeet Dhillon told CNN in May. “. . .we’re like the ugly stepchild. They need us for our cash and our donors; they don’t need us for anything else.”

The complaints prompted convention organizers to bristle at suggestions they had dropped the ball on accommodating the GOP’s largest delegation or that the California delegates were being penalized for coming from a state that hasn’t historically been friendly to Republicans.

“We’ve had all of the hotels contracted for nearly a year and met every obligation,” David Gilbert, CEO of Destination Cleveland, said in a recent interview. “Ninety-five percent of every hotel room being used for the convention is within 35 miles of downtown.”

Gilbert, whose visitor’s bureau organized convention activities, said that delegations that are farther out “are in a couple of very large properties that are housing larger groups.”

California GOP staffers were briefed at a Tuesday morning breakfast about the situation, Brulte said.

“Right now our delegates, alternates, and guests are at one of three places,” Brulte said. “Cedar Point, the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton Ohio, or relaxing at the Sandusky resort.”

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