Houston leaders continue to push for GOP convention to go virtual

Gov. Abbott says party leaders are considering current coronavirus spread

HOUSTON – Houston leaders continue to push for the Texas GOP to cancel its in-person convention due to the city’s coronavirus spread.

The cancellation request comes from Mayor Sylvester Turner, the city’s top doctor, the Greater Houston Partnership and some Democratic Congressional leaders.

The GOP Convention organizers said the event will go on as planned -- despite the pushback.

The event, which is expected to draw 6,000 delegates from across the country at the George R. Brown Convention Center.

Some Houstonians said they welcome the convention.  

“Not just as a community but as a world, we have to keep moving forward as bad as it sounds. As bad as the world is we can’t just put a halt to everything,” said Luis Fernandez, of Houston.

Turner sent a letter to the Republican Party of Texas, asking them to move from an in-person convention to a virtual one. The mayor cited the growth of COVID-19 cases, a surge in hospitalizations and advice from the county health experts.

“Another large event like this, which is known as a super-spreader event, is probably not the most responsible thing to do,” said Dr. David Persse, director of the Houston Health Department.

The Greater Houston Partnership released a letter Tuesday to GOP leaders, saying in normal times they’d welcome the event but these aren’t normal times.

Convention organizers said they plan to continue on with the event and will promote social distancing and temperature checks. The convention will run from July 16-18. The mayor said the health inspectors can shut the event down if attendees don’t follow protocols.

Gov. Gregg Abbott said his office will continue to look at the growth of coronavirus cases as the convention nears.

“I know that they continue to look at it and, you know, the facts that we see today contribute to that. As we may see in the coming days, as we get even closer to the convention, the reality is that there will be more people testing positive both in Texas as well as in Houston,” he said.

Abbott said there will be more hospitalizations in Houston and more deaths and says party leaders will make that determination based on issues and facts.

“I know that they don’t want to compromise the health or safety of anybody. But, I also know at the same time, that they need to find ways in which to conduct the official business that must be conducted by the party,” he said.

When the governor was asked if he would tell them to move the convention to a virtual convention, he said leaders will take it into consideration.

“I would ask that they take into consideration the health and safety of everybody who would be attending and make sure they conduct it, whether it be in-person or online, in a way that secures and protects the safety and health of everybody,” Abbott said.

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