Houston scraps Texas GOP’s in-person convention due to virus

Houston scraps Texas GOP’s in-person convention due to virus

Houston scraps Texas GOP’s in-person convention due to virus

Houston officials on Wednesday cancelled the Texas Republican Party’s in-person convention, saying the spread of the coronavirus made it impossible to hold the event as scheduled.

Mayor Sylvester Turner said the city’s lawyers exercised provisions in the contract that the Texas GOP signed to rent the downtown convention centre for a three-day event to have started July 16, with committee meetings earlier in the week. Turner, a Democrat, previously resisted calls to cancel the convention and insisted Wednesday that his decision wasn’t driven by politics.

“The public health concerns outweighed anything else,” Turner said.

State Republican chair James Dickey said the party was weighing its legal options and accused Turner of trying to deny the GOP’s “critical electoral function.”

The fight over whether thousands of Republican supporters will converge on downtown Houston as the city’s hospitals are overwhelmed is a snapshot of the broader political tensions that have underscored Texas’ handling of the pandemic.

Gov. Greg Abbott, the state’s top Republican, had publicly deferred to state party leaders who last week voted by a 2-to-1 margin to go forward with an in-person event, though he had not committed to attending the convention.

Abbott has faced pressure from both sides while managing a coronavirus crisis that has surged in recent weeks. In May, he lifted restrictions on gatherings and began to reopen business over the objections of Democratic leaders in several Texas cities. The numbers of confirmed virus cases and deaths began to spiral in June and reached new daily highs this week.

Last week, Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said he was through listening to the nation’s top infectious disease expert, saying Dr. Anthony Fauci “doesn’t know what he’s talking about” over comments that some states reopened too fast.

But even Patrick, who is chairman of Trump’s reelection campaign in Texas, expressed misgivings about his party pressing forward with the convention.

The Texas Medical Center, a consortium of Houston hospitals, has moved into surge capacity for its intensive-care beds. Texas reported more than 10,000 new confirmed cases statewide for the first time on Tuesday. The Texas Medical Association had already withdrawn as a convention sponsor and urged organizers to cancel.

The number of infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick.

Abbott in recent weeks has moved to close bars again, restrict the size of outdoor gatherings, and institute a broad mandate requiring people to wear masks in public.

Dickey said in his statement Wednesday that organizers had planned to institute daily temperature scans, provide masks, and install hand sanitizer stations. Echoing the criticism among some conservatives to the government’s coronavirus response, Dickey argued attendees at any convention would have more protection than the tens of thousands of protesters who gathered in downtown Houston following the death of George Floyd, a Black man who died after a white police officer pressed his knew into Floyd’s neck for nearly eight minutes.

Turner “does not want Houston to get back to work,” Dickey said. “He is not able to move forward and rise to these new challenges.”

Speaking Wednesday afternoon, the mayor said he waited to act because he had hoped state Republicans would cancel the event on their own.

He added that he thought of his late mother, who worked as a hotel maid, and whether others in her position would face a heightened risk of infection if the convention went forward.

“No one wanted to step in and be the heavy and to say no, and then run the risk of being accused of being political,” he said. “But if after all of that, you still refuse to recognize the public health danger to everyone involved, then I am still the mayor.”

Meanwhile, hours after Turner’s announcement, the chief administrative official of Montgomery County, in Houston’s conservative suburbs, offered to host the convention instead.

The national Republican Party is also pushing to have an in-person convention this year, moving the event from Charlotte, North Carolina, to Jacksonville, Florida, after North Carolina officials would not provide guarantees sought by President Donald Trump. But in recent days, a growing number of Republican senators said they would skip the convention.

Texas Democrats held an online convention in June, and national Democrats plan to hold an almost entirely virtual convention in August.

___

Weber reported from Austin, Texas.

Nomaan Merchant And Paul J. Weber, The Associated Press

Politics

Just Posted

Police officers and their dogs undergo training at the RCMP Police Dog Services training centre in Innisfail, Alta., on Wednesday, July 15, 2015. Mounties say they are searching for an armed and dangerous man near a provincial park in northern Alberta who is believed to have shot and killed a service dog during a police chase. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
RCMP search for armed man in northern Alberta after police dog shot and killed

Cpl. Deanna Fontaine says a police service dog named Jago was shot during the pursuit

Alberta now has 2,336 active cases of COVID-19, with 237 people in hospital, including 58 in intensive care. (Black Press file photo)
Red Deer down to 73 active cases of COVID-19, lowest since early November

The Central zone has 253 active cases of the virus

The Sylvan Lake Gulls show off the home jerseys (white) and their way jerseys at the Gulls Media Day on June 17, before the season opener. Following the media day, the team took to the field for their first practise. (Photo by Megan Roth/Sylvan Lake News)
Sylvan Lake Gulls ready to throw first pitch as construction continues

The Gulls inaugural season kicks off June 18 with a game against the Edmonton Prospects

People line up to get their COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination centre, Thursday, June 10, 2021 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Vaccines, low COVID case counts increase Father’s Day hope, but risk is still there

Expert says people will have to do their own risk calculus before popping in on Papa

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is seen during a joint news conference following the EU-Canada Summit, in Brussels, Belgium, Tuesday June 15, 2021. Trudeau says Canada is on track now to have 68 million doses delivered by the end of July, which is more than enough to fully vaccinate all 33.2 million Canadians over the age of 12. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Vaccine deliveries enough to fully vaccinate all eligible Canadians by end of July

Three in four eligible Canadians now have their first dose, nearly one in five fully vaccinated.

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam listens to a question during a news conference, in Ottawa, Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021. The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases attributed to the highly contagious Delta variant grew in Canada this week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s public health agency reports spike in confirmed cases of Delta variant

More than 2,000 cases of the variant confirmed across all 10 provinces and in one territory

The federal government says it wants to ban most flavoured vaping products in a bid to reduce their appeal to youth. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Craig Mitchelldyer
Health Canada proposes ban on most vaping flavours it says appeal to youth

If implemented, the regulations would restrict all e-cigarette flavours except tobacco, mint and menthol

The Montreal Police logo is seen in Montreal on Wednesday, July 8, 2020. Some Quebec politicians are calling for an investigation after a video was released that appears to show a Montreal police officer with his leg on a young Black man’s neck during an arrest. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Probe called for after video appearing to show Montreal officer’s knee on Black youth’s neck

Politicians call for investigation after clip evokes memories of George Floyd incident

Thousands of protesters make their way through the downtown core during a Black Lives Matter protest in Ottawa, Friday June 5, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
MPs’ study of systemic racism in policing concludes RCMP needs new model

Chair of the House public safety committee says it’s time for a reckoning on ‘quasi-military’ structure

A case filled with packages of boneless chicken breasts is shown in a grocery store Sunday, May 10, 2020, in southeast Denver. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-David Zalubowski
One million chickens euthanized during labour dispute at Quebec slaughterhouse

Premier says waste amounts to 13 per cent of the province’s chicken production thrown in the garbage

A section of the eastern slopes of the Canadian Rockies is seen west of Cochrane, Alta., Thursday, June 17, 2021. A joint federal-provincial review has denied an application for an open-pit coal mine in Alberta’s Rocky Mountains, saying its impacts on the environment and Indigenous rights aren’t worth the economic benefits it would bring. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Panel says Grassy Mountain coal mine in Alberta Rockies not in public interest

Public hearings on the project in southern Alberta’s Crowsnest Pass region were held last fall

Most Read