The state convention of Texas’ Republican Party could bring thousands of people to an enclosed space in the middle of a COVID-19 spike in the state.
The state party’s executive committee voted 40-20 on Thursday in support of an in-person convention at the George R. Brown Convention Center, in Houston.
The vote to hold the convention in-person, the Houston Chronicle noted, took place during a virtual meeting of the committee.
“Under the circumstances, we have adjusted our attendance estimates to about 6,000 people potentially attending,” party chairman James Dickey told CNN.
According to a new executive order from Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on Thursday, masks are now required statewide where social distancing isn’t possible — even though, just weeks ago, another executive order from the governor prevented localities from enforcing local mask rules with fines or penalties.
Abbott’s rule includes some exceptions — such as religious services — but specifically does not exempt “any person attending a protest or demonstration involving more than 10 people.”
On Tuesday, Dickey told the Texas Tribune that moving the convention online would represent the “ultimate contingency plan.”
The same day the president of the Texas Medical Association, Diana L. Fite, urged the state party to cancel the in-person convention, writing that “[w]hile much of our state has so far been spared the brunt of the coronavirus attack, our metropolitan areas in general – and Houston in particular – are now among the national epicenters of current COVID-19 outbreaks.”
And some Republican officeholders agreed.
“I think it’s a horrible idea to proceed with holding the in-person convention,” State Rep. Sarah Davis, a Republican from Houston, told the Tribune Tuesday. “Houston is the last place we need to have a crowd of 6,000 gathering, given our COVID-19 positivity rate increases.”
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, a Democrat, has expressed concerns about politicizing the situation by stepping in himself to cancel it, the Chronicle reported. After Thursday’s vote, he told the paper that “the city will decide what steps must be taken to protect the health and safety of employees, visitors, and the general public.”
Committee meetings are set to begin in July 13, Monday. The convention will begin the following Thursday and end on Saturday.
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