Houston blocks Texas GOP from holding convention amid virus surge

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The Texas Republican Party wanted to gather thousands in an indoor convention center as the state sees a massive rise in coronavirus cases.

The mayor of Houston on Wednesday announced he is blocking the Texas Republican Party from holding its 2020 state Republican convention in the city next week, citing risks to public health as Texas grapples with a massive coronavirus outbreak.

"Today I instructed the Houston First Corporation to exercise its right contractually in canceling the State's Republican Convention that was set to take place next week," Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner tweeted Wednesday afternoon, adding, "The public health concern for our first responders, convention workers, and those who would have attended weighed heavily in our decision making."

"#Houston is in the midst of a global health crisis and we are doing everything in our power to combat #COVID19," Turner said.

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The Texas Republican Party had planned to pack 6,000 people into Houston's George R. Brown Convention Center for the party's convention, according to the Texas Tribune, even as the state continues to set records for new cases.

Texas logged a record 9,952 new coronavirus cases on Wednesday, according to data from the New York Times. The state also set a grim new record for the number of coronavirus deaths in a single day, with 116 people dying from the virus, according to the Times' data.

Public health experts say even small indoor gatherings present major risks of spreading the coronavirus, with Trump coronavirus task force member Dr. Deborah Birx saying Wednesday that people in virus "red zones" like Texas should avoid "any kind of indoor gathering."

Yet the Texas Republican Party slammed the city of Houston's decision to cancel their party convention.

"After allowing tens of thousands of protestors to peaceably assemble in the same city, in the same area, without any of the safety precautions and measures we have taken, he is seeking to deny a political Party's critical electoral function that should be equally protected under the constitution," Republican Party of Texas Chair James Dickey said in a statement, adding that the party is exploring its legal options.

"We are prepared to take all necessary steps to proceed in the peaceable exercise of our constitutionally protected rights," Dickey said.

Of course, protests for racial justice have been taking place outdoors — where the virus has less chance of spreading — and not in an indoor setting like the Republican convention.

The cancellation of the Texas GOP's convention comes as residents of Jacksonville, Florida, seek to get the Republican National Convention — where Donald Trump is slated to accept the Republican presidential nomination — canceled.

According to CNN, "several" attorneys in the city filed a lawsuit to try and block the convention, saying that holding the event would be "a nuisance injurious to the health (and) welfare" in the city.

Florida is currently seeing the worst coronavirus outbreak in the country, logging 9,989 new cases on Wednesday, and 48 new deaths, according to the New York Times.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.