The Republican Party of Texas will hold their state convention in-person with an expected attendance in the thousands, as the state is seeing record numbers of new daily coronavirus cases and increased hospitalizations.
The party’s executive committee on Thursday night passed a resolution, 40-20, in support of moving forward with its in-person convention in Houston.
The convention will be held indoors at the George R. Brown Convention Center in downtown Houston from July 16-18. Committee meetings will begin on July 13.
The Texas Republican Party said the convention will have multiple precautions and safety measures for attendees, including thermal scanners at entrances and hand sanitizer stations throughout the convention.
Meeting areas will be “deep-cleaned thoroughly” between gatherings and there will be expanded seating allowing attendees to social distancing.
Donated masks will be available for delegates and attendees to comply with Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s executive order that requires most residents to wear masks in public.
Abbott on Thursday mandated that residents in counties with 20 or more active Covid-19 cases – which is about 95% of Texans – to wear a face covering in public.
“Under the circumstances, we have adjusted our attendance estimates to about 6,000 people potentially attending,” chairman James Dickey said in a statement to CNN.
Dickey said Tuesday that the party has prepared for an online convention as the “ultimate contingency plan” if a government order forces them not to hold it in-person. Dickey said the plan had been in place before the coronavirus pandemic.
After the party’s decision was made, the Texas Medical Association said it’s pleased that the convention will comply with Abbott’s order to wear face masks, and while masks will help prevent the spread of Covid-19 at the convention, “masks alone are not enough.”
“With or without masks, an indoor gathering of thousands of people from all around the state in a city with tens of thousands of active COVID-19 cases poses a significant health risk to conventiongoers, convention workers, health care workers, and the residents of Houston,” Dr. Diana Fite, the president of the Texas Medical Association, said in a statement.
The advocacy organization of physicians also announced that it would withdraw as an advertiser from the convention.
Texas Democratic Party Chair Gilberto Hinojosa in a statement Friday called the Republicans’ decision to hold an in-person convention “dead wrong.”
“Greg Abbott and other Texas Republicans haven’t taken this crisis seriously from day one,” Hinojosa said. “Neither the vanity of hosting an in-person convention nor the lack of skill to host a modern virtual experience are reasons to put Houston workers and their families at risk.”
In a statement on its website, the George R. Brown Convention Center and its operator, the Houston First Corporation, said that it does not make any decision to postpone or cancel an event, instead leaving it to the discretion of the event organizers.
On July 1, Texas recorded 8,076 new cases – the state’s record high of new cases per day since the pandemic began.
Harris County, which encompasses Houston and is the most populous county in Texas, is reporting 32,859 cases and 384 deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
Texas is expected to see nearly 2,000 new hospitalizations per day by mid-July, according to forecasts published by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.