Democratic convention to air just two hours of programming each night

The Democratic National Convention at the Wells Fargo Center, July 28, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. By MJ Lee and Jessica Dean, CNN

(CNN) -- The Democratic National Convention will feature just two hours of prime time programming on each of the four nights between August 17 and 20, according to people familiar with planning around the event.

The decision to limit the TV programming from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. ET each night is one of the starkest signs yet of how unconventional this year's gathering will be in the age of the coronavirus pandemic compared to previous conventions, typically filled with various events and speakers for many hours each day.

President Donald Trump last week announced that plans to hold convention activities in Jacksonville, Florida, had been scrapped due to concerns about coronavirus in the state.

Pared-back events in Charlotte, North Carolina, will still be held, Trump said.

Politico was first to report the shortened Democratic convention schedule.

Given this decision, speaking slots and various segments simply won't be as long as they might have been at previous conventions so that they can try to fit as much in -- and as many speakers in -- as possible.

The programming will include both content coming out of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, as well as other satellite cities and landmarks across the country -- which CNN has previously reported -- though the details, including themes, are still in the process of being finalized.

As CNN has previously reported, Joe Biden will physically accept the Democratic nomination for president in Milwaukee. The speaking line-up for other prominent figures is also still being finalized. Barack and Michelle Obama will participate, but exactly how and from where they will appear is still unclear.

People familiar with the convention planning also say that there continue to be active discussions on how to hold the four-night event with proper precautions around Covid-19. Epidemiologists Larry Brilliant and W. Ian Lipkin are taking lead roles in advising those planning the convention.

The Democratic National Convention Committee has begun circulating a "COVID-19 protocol" memo that lays out ways to try to minimize the spread of the coronavirus in Milwaukee next month, including daily coronavirus testing, banning visits to bars and restaurants, and even recommending the use of goggles and face shields in addition to masks in and around the convention site.

According to the memo, which was shared with CNN, the DNCC is mandating that all participants of the convention in Milwaukee follow a number of protocols, including:

  • Being tested and getting a negative result for COVID-19 "through the DNCC's testing system" before they can enter what they're billing as the convention's "health and safety zone" for the first time

  • Being tested every day for COVID-19 during the convention
  • Obeying social distancing rules by staying six feet away from people at all times
  • Self-isolating for at least 72 hours prior to arriving in Milwaukee (or prior to entering the "health and safety zone" if the person was already in Milwaukee
  • Wearing PPE en route to Milwaukee)
  • Wearing PPE at the convention site, including a mask that overs both nose and mouth at all times, as well as recommending eye protection like goggles or a face shield
  • Avoiding bars and restaurants, as well as other places in Milwaukee where social distancing isn't possible
  • Wearing a mask at all times outside the hotel

The memo says that the "health and safety zone" will include the entire Wisconsin Center building and any workspaces in the immediate vicinity (which will be established by Secret Service). It also says that members of the media who are only working at the outdoor standup position are not subject to daily testing requirement, but will be required to do everything else.

A person familiar with convention planning also said that the COVID-19 tests will be made available to anyone with a credential, including members of the press.

There will be two COVID-19 testing sites for participants requiring daily testing, according to this protocol memo -- one inside this "zone" and another offsite. The memo says that attendees will need to release their test results to both the DNCC and the Milwaukee Health Department, and that they will not accept test results from other providers.

This story has been updated with additional reporting about safety measures at the Democratic convention.

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