The Texas Medical Association is asking the Texas Republican Party to postpone its in-person, mask-optional convention scheduled for July 16-18 in Houston, which is expected to gather a crowd of thousands indoors at the George R. Brown Convention Center as Texas and the Houston area deal with a massive surge in coronavirus infections.
In an open letter Tuesday, Texas Medical Association President Dr. Diana L. Fite said that “This is just not the time to bring thousands of 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.”
On its website, the Texas Republican Party says that over 10,000 are expected to attend the convention over its three days, which it advertises as “the largest political gathering in the free world.”
New coronavirus cases and hospitalizations have spiked in Texas over the course of June, leading Republican Gov. Greg Abbott to roll back the state’s reopening, which was among the fastest in the nation.
Bars have once again had to close down and restaurant capacity has been lowered to 50% from 75%, per Abbott’s order, as the governor has asked residents to not leave their homes unless necessary and pleaded with the public to wear masks.
Masks will be optional for convention attendees, even as Houston has now become a national epicenter for the coronavirus, with hospitalizations quadrupling since Memorial Day.
The Texas Republican Party did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Forbes.
“The daily chart of active cases in Harris County has been nearly a straight line upward for the past two weeks,” Fite wrote. “As an emergency physician in Houston treating patients with COVID-19, I speak from firsthand experience: It would be best for the health of your conventioneers and the residents of Houston for the RPT not to hold its biennial convention there as planned.”
On Tuesday, Houston extended its emergency order due to the coronavirus until at least Aug. 26. Amid concerns that hospitals are approaching capacity, the Texas Children’s Hospital has now started admitting adult patients. Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo has said she is pressing Abbott to allow Houston to reinstate a stay-at-home order.
The Texas Democratic Party held its convention virtually at the beginning of this month, which was the first major virtual convention of its kind. The event was a hit, with the Democratic Party smashing fundraising records from over 38,000 individual donors as #TurnTexasBlue trended on Twitter.
The Texas Medical Association is one of about 30 sponsors for the Texas Republican Convention.The organization was also a sponsor for the Texas Democratic Convention.