Texas Republicans plan in-person convention during pandemic, pressured to change

(Reuters) – Texas Republican Party leaders will meet virtually on Thursday to decide if they will press ahead with an in-person convention in Houston later this month, or hold it online as recommended by the state medical association, a sponsor of the event.

The party has come under criticism for continuing to say it plans to hold its convention in person. The Republican Party has said that masks would be recommended but not mandatory for upwards of 6,000 people 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.

“The current status remains, we’re proceeding with our convention in Houston with all sorts of safety precautions,” said James Dickey, chairman of the state’s Republican Party.

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.

Dickey said the convention would only be changed or canceled if the party is ordered to do so by a government entity or if the party’s board votes on Thursday to alter its July 16-18 convention.

Dickey said that if the convention is held in person, there would be “all sorts of safety precautions.” But so far 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.

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