The Executive Committee of the Texas Republican Party on Thursday voted to push ahead and have their state convention in person this month, despite a surge in coronavirus cases in Houston, where it will take place.
The committee voted 40 to 20 to host the meeting that about 6,000 people are expected to attend in Houston’s George R. Brown convention center in just over two weeks.
The party had been under pressure to postpone the convention or host it virtually. The Republican Party has said that masks would be recommended but not mandatory for those expected to attend, despite surging coronavirus cases, deaths and hospitalizations in Texas.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott on Thursday issued an executive order that masks must be used inside commercial buildings or outside when social distancing is not possible.
Texas has long been a Republican stronghold with President Donald Trump winning the state by 9 percentage points in 2016, but Democrats have made gains in recent years. The state convention this year will decide the party’s platform and leadership in the state.
Texas Republican Party Chairman James Dickey said that if the convention is held in person, there would be “all sorts of safety precautions.” But masks would not be mandatory, which has sparked criticism, including from the Texas Medical Association, a sponsor of the convention.
Dr Diana Fite, president of the medical association, sent a letter to the Texas Republican Party this week, urging it to not hold the convention in person.
“This is just not the time to bring thousands of the party faithful from around the state to an indoor meeting in a county that, as I write, reports more than 18,000 active COVID-19 cases,” Fite wrote.