Houston cancels Texas Republican convention over virus concerns

Healthcare workers walk through the Texas Medical Center during a shift change as cases of Covid-19 spike in Houston, Texas July 8, 2020. — Reuters pic
Healthcare workers walk through the Texas Medical Center during a shift change as cases of Covid-19 spike in Houston, Texas July 8, 2020. — Reuters pic

HOUSTON, July 9 — Houston has cancelled the Texas Republican Party's upcoming state convention, planned to be held there in person, the mayor announced yesterday, as novel coronavirus cases surge in the major city.

“This decision is the decision to protect the health and safety of the employees, the delegates and the members of the public,” Democratic mayor Sylvester Turner said during a press conference. “Houston is a hotspot right now in a global pandemic.”

The event was scheduled for July 16-18 inside a convention centre that can accommodate 6,000 people.

Turner said he had received several warnings in recent days, and ultimately made the call after David Persse with the Houston Health Department on Tuesday categorised the convention meeting as a “clear and present danger.”

“The last thing you want to do in the midst of a pandemic is to politicise it,” Turner said, noting several other major Houston events that have also been canceled in recent months.

Turner said the Republican Party of Texas had received a letter from Houston First, a local government event-planning agency that operates the convention center reserved for the occasion.

Paul Simpson, the Republican Party chairman for Harris County, where Houston is located, accused Turner of a “hypocritical flip flop on public gatherings,” citing the massive protests authorised by the city in June after the death of George Floyd, a black man, in Minneapolis police custody.

Houston emerged as a pandemic hotspot in June, and yesterday the city tallied 40,012 Covid-19 cases since the start of the pandemic.

Texas was one of the first US states to reopen, in early May, following weeks of lockdowns aimed at stemming the spread of the virus.

But while other states like New York, the early outbreak epicentre, have seen their cases drop, Texas and other southern states have experienced spikes.

Two veteran Republican US senators, Chuck Grassley and Lamar Alexander, both in their eighties, have said they will skip the Republican National Convention in Jacksonville, Florida next month due to concerns over the novel coronavirus. — AFP

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